France, UK and US rule out military options

France, UK and US rule out military options

France’s foreign minister threw cold water yesterday on weapons requests by the Syrian rebel forces, saying that arming the Syrian opposition could lead to a catastrophic civil war, while the United States and Britain denounced any military intervention to the country.

Rebel forces are asking for new weapons after defeats by government troops. But leading world powers such as the United States and France seem wary of getting embroiled in a new conflict after the NATO-led campaign of airstrikes in Libya.

“The Syrian people are deeply divided, and if we give arms to a certain faction of the Syrian opposition, we could cause a civil war among Christians, Alawites, Sunnis and Shiites,” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on France-Culture radio yesterday.

Juppe said that arming the opposition could lead to “a catastrophe even larger than the one that exists today.” The comments echoed those from President Barack Obama in Washington on March 14, when he warned of an international response that could potentially lead to more deaths.

Pressed on the use of force, Obama said: “Our military plans for everything,” but he warned of an international response that could lead to civil war and more deaths.

Currently on an official visit to the U.S., British Prime Minister David Cameron said the horrible images coming out of Syria “shouldn’t be allowed to stand in our world.” He and Obama stood by a strategy of political and financial pressure until al-Assad goes.

The U.S. also said March 14 that Russia and China had moved closer to the rest of the world in condemning al-Assad’s deadly crackdown. The points agreed in Cairo on March 10 between the Arab League and Moscow “are an improvement over where we had been previously in some of the Russian positions,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

Russia and the Arabs agreed on “unhindered humanitarian access,” an end to the violence, the establishment of a mechanism for “objective monitoring” in the country, and no foreign intervention. China then welcomed this plan, with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao calling for an immediate truce and for the protection of civilians: “China respects the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people for change and for the pursuit of their own interests.”

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands joined the Western powers in closing their embassies in Damascus and pulling out their diplomatic staff. Britain, France, Italy, Spain and the United States have already closed their embassies in Damascus.

Meanwhile, the head of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, is set to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington. Clinton favors the coordinating of humanitarian access by the OIC, daily Hürriyet reported.

Compiled from AFP and AP stories by the Daily News staff.