Britain signalled it is prepared to recognise a new Syrian rebel coalition, and refused to rule out offering them weapons to hasten the removal of the Bashar al-Assad regime.
After meeting delegates from the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces in London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "We would like to be able at an early stage to recognise them as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people."
Mr Hague suggested that he could announce his decision as early next week, hailing an "encouraging turning point" in the 21-month battle to topple the Syrian dictator.
"We cannot stand still, we cannot just say we will leave things as they are in Syria, because it is a gravely deteriorating situation. How we respond has to be well judged, well thought-through," he said.
More than 39,000 people have died since the uprising began 20 months ago. France, Turkey and the Gulf states have recognised the new coalition. (© Daily Telegraph, London)