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World must prepare to step up Syria response: Britain

Fearing worse violence in the coming months, Britain's foreign secretary says he will push amend the EU weapons embargo on Syria

AFP , Thursday 10 Jan 2013
Foreign secretary William Hague (Photo: Reuters)
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World powers will have to step up their response to the Syrian conflict if the violence worsens, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Thursday, warning that all options were on the table.

He reiterated that Britain would seek to amend the EU weapons embargo on Syria when it comes up for review on March 1 to allow them to arm rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

In an update to the House of Commons, Hague said Britain was supporting UN and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi's efforts to end the 21-month-old conflict, and revealed he would visit London for talks later this month.

But the foreign secretary warned: "Given the regime's intransigence and brutality, there is a serious risk that the violence will indeed worsen in the coming months.

"If that happens the international community's response will have to be stepped up.

"So we will not rule out any options to save lives and protect civilians in the absence of a political transition in Syria.

"We will ensure that our efforts are legal, that they're aimed at saving life and they support at all times the objective of a political transition and encouraging moderate political forces in Syria."

Hague repeated that Britain would seek to amend the European Union embargo blocking the delivery of weapons to either side in the Syrian conflict.

"No decisions have yet been made to change the support we provide to the Syrian National Coalition or the Syrian people," he said.

"But European countries now have the flexibility to consider taking additional steps to try to save lives if there is no progress in the near future.

"Clearly the best outcome for the Syrian people would be a diplomatic breakthrough, bringing an end to the bloodshed and establishing a new Syrian government able to restore stability.

"However we must keep open options to help save lives in Syria and to assist opposition groups opposed to extremism if the violence continues.

"We should send strong signals to Assad that all options are on the table. We will therefore seek to amend the EU sanctions so that the possibility of additional assistance is not closed off."

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