Britain to give £5 mln to Syria rebels
LONDON - Agence France-Presse
British Prime Minister David Cameron arrives to greet his bulgarian counterpart at 10 Downing Street in London on August 7, 2012. AFP PHOTO / ANDREW COWIEBritain will give Syrian rebels a further £5 million to buy communications equipment and medical supplies to use in their fight against President Bashar al-Assad, the Foreign Office said Friday.
Foreign Secretary William Hague was due to announce the aid alongside an increase in contacts with the opposition, especially the Free Syrian Army, but Britain will still not supply weapons.
A Foreign Office spokesman told AFP that Hague was expected to announce the extra £5 million ($7.82 million, 6.3 million euros) at a press conference later Friday.
Hague said in an article in The Times newspaper that Britain was stepping up its non-lethal aid because the "people of Syria cannot wait while the wheels of diplomacy turn".
"This week, on my instructions, my ambassador-level representative to the Syrian opposition has contacted and is meeting political elements of the Free Syria Army," he said.
Hague said Britain's contacts with the often fractious Syrian rebel movement were aimed at helping them unite against Assad.
"This is not taking sides in a civil war. The risk of total disorder and a power vacuum is so great that we must build relationships now with those who may govern Syria in the future," he said.
Hague said Britain would give the rebels a "tough message that they must observe human rights standards, whatever horrors are perpetrated by the regime".
The extra equipment supplied by Britain would include paramedic kits, water purification equipment and portable power generators, Hague said.
Activists say the conflict in Syria has claimed more than 21,000 lives.