WASHINGTON — The United States is considering closing its embassy in Damascus over increasing safety concerns as the death toll mounts in the Syrian regime's crackdown on protests, US officials said Friday.

"We are considering closing the embassy due to the deteriorating security situation in Syria, and our increasing concern for the safety of our personnel there on the ground," a US official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

But he and another State Department official who also spoke on the condition of anonymity stressed that "no final decision" has been made.

The first official pointed to "the recent spate of car bombs that we've seen in Syria as one thing that is obviously causing us some concern, but the overral security situation is deteriorating."

The official declined to say how the State Department had communicated its concerns about security or what steps it had asked Damascus to take.

But he added: "We do want the Assad regime to take necessary protection measures that we've asked for."

On January 11, the State Department said it would further reduce the number of staff at its embassy in Damascus, updating a warning in October in which embassy staff were restricted and family members asked to leave.

In December, the US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, returned to Damascus, where he has championed protesters facing a deadly crackdown, after he was abruptly pulled out in October due to threats.

The United States has repeatedly called for President Bashar al-Assad to step down over his regime's violent crackdown on protesters that UN officials say has so far cost the lives of more than 5,000 people.

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