US calls Assad Instagram account 'repulsive'

A screen grab taken on July 31, 2013 shows the Syrian presidency's official Instagram page as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's office has used a new Instagram account to post photographs of him greeting supporters, and images of his wife Asma visit
A screen grab taken on July 31, 2013 shows the Syrian presidency's official Instagram page as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's office has used a new Instagram account to post photographs of him greeting supporters, and images of his wife Asma visiting hospital patients. The United States on Wednesday denounced as "repulsive" an Instagram site by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying it did not reflect the reality of the civil war. -- PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States on Wednesday denounced as "repulsive" an Instagram site by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying it did not reflect the reality of the civil war.

The embattled Syrian leader's office took to the social media site to post pictures that include Mr Assad greeting supporters and his wife Asma comforting the injured.

"This is nothing more than a despicable PR stunt," State Department spokesman Marie Harf told reporters.

"It's repulsive that the Assad regime would use this to gloss over the brutality and suffering it's causing," she said.

Ms Harf said the Instagram account ignored the "horrific atrocities" in Homs and elsewhere in Syria.

"We would encourage people to take a look at unfiltered photos of what's actually happening on the ground," Ms Harf said.

Comments on the Instagram account praise the secular-minded Assad for fighting "terrorism" and Islamists and criticise foreign media coverage of the conflict.

However, occasional comments on the account - instagram/com/syrianpresidency - blamed Mr Assad for civilian deaths.

Users need to follow the account to leave comments, providing a way to remove critical remarks.

The United Nations says that more than 100,000 people have died in a war that erupted when security forces cracked down on dissent in March 2011.

The United States has called for Mr Assad to step down and is assisting the mostly Sunni rebels.

But unlike Sunni Arab monarchies such as Qatar, the United States says it is only providing "non-lethal" aid.