Washington: The Obama Administration summoned Syrian Ambassador Imad Mustapha to the US early this week after reports that embassy staff had filmed protests here against the Arab country's regime.

"We received reports that Syrian mission personnel under Ambassador Mustapha's authority have been conducting video and photographic surveillance of people participating in peaceful demonstrations in the United States," the State Department said.

The US takes very seriously reports of any foreign government actions attempting to intimidate individuals in the US who are exercising their lawful right to freedom of speech as protected by the US Constitution, it said.

"We are also investigating reports that the Syrian government has sought retribution against Syrian family members for the actions of their relatives in the United States exercising their lawful rights in this country and will
respond accordingly," it said.

The State Department later said that the US does not restrict Mustapha's travel throughout the country and he is not required to obtain permission prior to travelling.

"Diplomats accredited to the United States from countries listed as state sponsors of terrorism are not automatically subject to travel restrictions in the United States," the State Department said.

"Instead, restrictions on the travel of foreign diplomats within the United States are imposed by the Department of State on a case-by-case basis, depending on various factors, such as national security and reciprocity,"
it said.

Earlier, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the US was dismayed at the Syrian criticism over the visit of its Ambassador to Hama.

"We're a little bit dismayed by the Syrian Government's reaction, because our Embassy in Damascus did inform the Syrian Government, in this case the ministry of defence that we planned to have a delegation to go to Hama in advance," she said.

"In addition to that as they drove up towards Hama, they had to go through a Syrian Government military checkpoint and they were allowed to pass. So the notion that this was somehow a surprise to the Syrian Government or was in violation of their will doesn't make any sense," she said.

(Agencies)