UK under pressure as Saudis back arms for Syrian rebels
BRITAIN and its Western allies came under intense pressure last night to drop their opposition to military intervention in the crisis in Syria, as Saudi Arabia called directly for the arming of the opposition.
Foreign ministers of more than 60 nations met in Tunis to thrash out the next steps in applying pressure to the Assad regime, with William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, and his French counterpart, Alain Juppe, leading the way in calling for more economic sanctions.
But Saudi Arabia left the first Friends of Syria conference halfway through, demanding that it go further. The foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, said he supported supplying weapons. "I think it's an excellent idea," he said.
Qatar and Tunisia called for an Arab force to be sent in to help end the killings and open humanitarian corridors. The forthright Arab approach was backed by the Syrian National Council, the opposition umbrella group newly strengthened by a draft communique, in which it was recognised as "a legitimate representative of Syrians seeking peaceful democratic change".
Its leader, Burhan Ghalioun, said that the conference "did not meet the aspirations of the Syrian people".
Western diplomats said military intervention, even the supply of arms to the Free Syrian Army, would see the conflict possibly descend into civil war, while accepting that the provision of arms, perhaps by their Gulf allies, might be a later option. (© Daily Telegraph, London)