© Reuters//Guido Krzikowski
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
As tensions mount between Western nations and Syria, the German authorities said Thursday that they had ordered the expulsion of four Syrian diplomats after arresting two men accused separately of spying on opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.
The police here arrested the two men on Tuesday, saying they were "strongly suspected of investigating Syrian opposition members in Germany for a Syrian intelligence service over a period of years."
The men were identified, under standard German procedures, only as Mahmoud El A., 47, of Lebanese descent, and Akram O., 34, a Syrian.
State and federal police officers searched the homes of six other suspects "believed to be involved in espionage," prosecutors said.
In a statement on Thursday, Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign minister, said the four diplomats - three men and a woman who were not identified by name - had been given three days to leave Germany. Mr. Westerwelle did not go into detail about the expulsions, but officials said the embassy personnel were suspected of carrying out activities incompatible with their diplomatic status, a formulation that usually refers to espionage.