Hague: Giving arms to Syrian rebels cannot be ruled out


William Hague: "You can reach the point eventually where humanitarian need is so great... that you have to do something new in order to save lives"

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Britain cannot rule out providing arms to the Syrian opposition in the future, Foreign Secretary William Hague says.

The situation in Syria now is "too dangerous to the peace and security of that entire region, and thereby to the world, to ignore it", he said.

His words come after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accused Britain in the Sunday Times of bullying and naivety over the conflict in his country.

Mr Hague described Mr Assad's interview as "delusional".

About 70,000 people have been killed in the Syrian uprising that started almost two years ago. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled to neighbouring countries.

The foreign secretary is due to announce to Parliament this week an aid package to assist those fighting against the Syrian government.

Speaking to the BBC's Andrew Marr programme, Mr Hague said the package would be given "directly to the opposition" and would include "more equipment to help save lives".

He added that he would not be announcing a provision of arms this week, but he could not "rule anything out for the future".

Start Quote

I think this (interview with Bashar al-Assad) will go down as one of the most delusional interviews that any national leader has given in modern times”

End Quote William Hague Foreign Secretary

"If this is going to go on for months or years and more, tens of thousands of people are going to die, and countries like Iraq and Lebanon and Jordan are going to be destabilised, it is not something we can ignore."

In his interview, Mr Assad dismissed any suggestion that Britain could help to resolve the conflict.

"We do not expect an arsonist to be a firefighter," he said.

"To be frank, Britain has played a famously unconstructive role in our region on different issues for decades, some say for centuries... The problem with this government is that their shallow and immature rhetoric only highlights this tradition of bullying and hegemony...

"How can we ask Britain to play a role while it is determined to militarise the problem? How can we expect them to make the violence less while they want to send military supplies to the terrorists?"

In response to Mr Assad's comments, Mr Hague said the Syrian president was a man "presiding over this slaughter".

He added: "The message to him is that we, Britain, are the people sending food and shelter and blankets to the help the people driven from their homes and families in his name.

"We're the people sending medical supplies to try and look after people injured and abused by soldiers working for this man.

"I think this will go down as one of the most delusional interviews that any national leader has given in modern times."

Humanitarian aid

Mr Hague said agreements were made in the European Union last week on a series of amendments to the arms embargo which now allowed the UK to send a wider range of "non-lethal equipment" to Syria.

In response to being asked if this included military equipment, Mr Hague told the BBC's Sophie Raworth: "We can now send more."

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said they would be "adding to the assistance, to the equipment that we provide to help the opposition, to help the National Coalition".

The spokeswoman said the assistance so far included "training on political strategy, communications, gaining evidence of human rights abuses and training for journalists in reporting".

Assistance also included providing communications equipment, water purification equipment and power generators.

Separately the Department for International Development has so far provided £139.5m in humanitarian aid to Syria which includes food packages, blankets, clothing and medical aid.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 473.

    cycleguy @ 409
    "Assad has no legitimacy to be leader and is but a dictator from the country's minority Alawites. I'm not saying we should intervene, but I have no doubt the Syrians would be better off without him."

    Absolute rubbish!

    Assad held an election in 2012 and won

    He won with a 50% turnout from 10,000,000 eligible voters

    Of course the yanks said it was a farce (like the Bush election)

  • rate this

    Comment number 472.

    war huh what is it good for
    absolutely nothing

    ( sorry i dont know who sung that but he was spot on )

  • rate this

    Comment number 471.

    Both Great Britain and the U.S. need to take a laissez-faire approach to the situation in Syria instead of the current policy of butting in. 85% of the world's problems are caused by either U.S., British or both by their needless interference where they have no business!

  • rate this

    Comment number 470.

    Hague will do anything the American administration tells him to,. even if it is arming Islamic extremists.

  • rate this

    Comment number 469.

    Supplying weapons to Syrian rebels is complete madness! Send humanitarian aid by all means but giving arms will only result in more bloodshed and misery. Guns don't 'help', they kill!

  • rate this

    Comment number 468.

    So we will provide arms to fight us in the future and kill more of our chidlren. Do these idiots never learn?

    I state publicly now I DO NOT authorise my hard earned taxes to be used to supply arms or military aid to these militants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 467.

    @430 We went to war with Italy in WW2 because they were allied with Germany invading places we were allied with, we didn't care about his internal affairs for the 20 years prior to then.

    I'm not necessarily against intervention in all situations, however when one side is not significantly more desirable than the other and the human cost is going to be high we should stay well away from this mess.

  • rate this

    Comment number 466.

    455. WhyMe44
    Assad does not torture children.

    You lose your argument spouting rubbish like that. You've probably seen it mentioned on the BBC or on a UTube video somewhere similarly faked by the terrorist propaganda machine.
    Or the Daily Mail, who reported on this last year. Or Newsweek. Or CBS. Or so many other news sources.

  • rate this

    Comment number 465.

    "The situation for human rights in Syria has long been considered among the worst in the world, according to independent organizations such as Human Rights Watch."

    If you did YOUR research you'd know Human Rights Watch is a well respected organization.

    Syrian forces are "systematically" torturing children held in detention, the UN human rights commissioner, Navi Pillay, has told the BBC

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    As much as I feel sorry for those pushed from their homes, we are as a country in a situation of record unemployment, everyday people are struggling to put food on the table, put fuel in their vehicles or afford fairs for public transport to even get to work and we,re sending money all over the world for people that have never paid a penny into this country. Something wrong there don't you think?

  • rate this

    Comment number 463.

    The government says we have to make savings in education, defence, welfare local government etc, leading to people losing their jobs and homes and many committing suicide. But there is money for a civil war that doesn't concern us. The UN should have forced Assad to resign, but can we trust the rebels? If they win, I expect Syria to become an extreme Moslim, anti-western dictatorship.

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    I can’t see anything wrong with having comedians as politicians

    It’s better than the clowns we have got

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    447. darkcamel
    ... Many of the Syrian rebels have admitted fighting for them, fly their flags and hope to attack the US after Assad falls.
    It's not as black and white as that, which you would know if you'd read the reports on that issue accurately.

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    mr hauge you do not know what you are doing and i do not know what to do either why dont we both go and spend the money down the pub . now that would be most sensible thing to do .

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    It really disgusts me how our supposedly civilised country can show a willingness to make money out of Middle East unrest, and then express horror when other countries start waging war on each other. It really goes to show just how two-faced our politicians have become.

    Britain should distance itself from all acts of violence beyond its shores.

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    You know what we should do? We should ask the Middle East Peace Envoy what to do in a situation like this. Who is he again?

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    There'll be no surprise if Auntie Beeb sees fit to moderate this, but for anyone who doubts that we are being fed a tissue of lies and propaganda about Assad and his regime, i strongly recommend this speech he gave at the beginning of January:


  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    How about getting both sides to talk to each other? People will then stop dying.
    Oh no I forgot the current regime is friends with Russia and Iran!
    Diplomatic hypocracy from Hague! If we arm the rebels we'll get an oppressive Islamic state, who will probably be more oppressive and anti western than the current regime, and will end up killing british soldiers a few years down the line.

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    cycleguy @ 431

    Assad does not torture children.

    You lose your argument spouting rubbish like that. You've probably seen it mentioned on the BBC or on a UTube video somewhere similarly faked by the terrorist propaganda machine.

    And Syria does not have the worst human right records in the world.

    In fact before the Arab Spring, Syria was the most peaceful nation in the middle east. Research it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    Look ! Its nothing to do with us Hague so keep yer shonk out !


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