Bloomberg News

U.K. Looking at Legality of Arming Syrian Rebels

November 07, 2012

Britain is examining if it’s legal to supply arms to Syrian rebels under clauses of a European Union embargo that allow exemptions in cases of humanitarian suffering, an official in Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said.

The re-election of Barack Obama as U.S. president and Cameron’s visit to the Middle East, which ended yesterday with a trip to a refugee camp on the Syrian-Jordanian border, provide a fresh impetus to look at ways of toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said the official, who declined to be named in line with U.K. government practice. Cameron wants all options back on the table, the official said.

“Let’s be frank, what we’ve done for the last 18 months hasn’t been enough,” the prime minister told reporters yesterday in Amman, the Jordanian capital. “The slaughter continues; the bloodshed is appalling. So let’s work together on really pushing what more we can do, what other steps we can take to hasten the end of this regime.”

More than 35,000 people have died since the uprising against Assad began in March 2011, according to the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Cameron has urged international action to support the rebels and remove Assad from power, blaming China and Russia for blocking such moves at the United Nations.

The U.K. wants to put more pressure on Russia and China to drop their support for Assad, the official said. Cameron, describing Obama as “a re-elected president with a new mandate,” said he was looking forward to working with him on the issue.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said yesterday he’d authorized British diplomats to have direct contact with Syrian armed groups, to “understand better the situation in Syria and the relationship between political and armed opposition groups.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Hutton in Amman, Jordan, at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at

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