An Arab league statement, issued at the end of a meeting ofministers in Cairo Wednesday, said that Arab states should be ableto offer military aid to rebels fighting President Assad.So far the League has said that the Syrian opposition should besupported only by humanitarian and diplomatic means.Separately, Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elarby told apress conference that League ministers have formally invited theSyrian Opposition Coalition to send a representative to attend aleague meeting to be held in Doha in April. Normally only nationswith diplomatically recognized governments are represented in theleague.Meanwhile twenty UN peacekeepers have been taken hostageby Syrian rebels in the Golan Heights on the border between Syriaand Israel. One of the fighters who said he was from the“martyrs of Yarmouk” said that they would not be set freeuntil Syrian government forces withdrew from a nearby village.Many observers cite such events as to why aid should not begiven to the fragmented Syrian opposition, which lacks a unifiedcommand structure.UK to aid rebelsThe UK offer will include millions of pounds of non-lethal aid,including armored vehicles, body armor, search and rescue, diseaseprevention and communication equipment.The package announced by Hague comes to 13 million pounds(US$19.5 million) and was made possible by changes to the terms ofthe EU arms embargo on Syria, which were agreed last week.Hague told a largely-empty parliament that the UK was making a“necessary, proportionate and lawful” response to the“extreme human suffering” in Syria.He said the world’s efforts to try to end the conflict andviolence there had been “an abject failure.””No Western government is advocating military intervention ofWestern nations into the conflict in Syria, the discussion isentirely focused on the degree of assistance that can and should bedelivered to the opposition,” Hague told MPs.Hague was asked by Sir Gerald Howarth, the former Conservativedefense minister, how confident he is that the moderate forces willbe in charge when the regime falls and if the UK’s “hand isbeing drawn ever closer into this mangle.”The minister replied that moderate forces are more likely toprevail if the opposition receives the kind of support the UK isoffering.Labour MP Peter Hain accused Hague of “making the situationworse” by not pushing hard enough for a diplomatic solution.Hague replied that, “every possibility has been given to theregime to negotiate.”While Sir Menzies Campbell, a senior MP for the LiberalDemocrats raised the 10th anniversary of what he called the“mistaken military action” in Iraq and said that many peoplefear a “drift” towards military intervention in Syria.Hague was also asked about the possibility of implementing ano-fly zone, but the foreign secretary was adamant that this wouldnot be something likely to happen as it would constitute,”military force externally on a substantial scale,” and thatinterest in implementing a no-fly zone is “limited” among UNcountries.Overall the announcement marks a shift in British policy onSyria, but falls short of the weapons that the oppositionwants.The British announcement follows the US government’s pledge of$60 million in non-lethal assistance last week and signs that inthe future the international community may be reconsidering itspolicy of not providing military support to groups opposed to theAssad government.‘Aid will encourage extremism’Russia said last week that the decision to send aid to therebels will only intensify the two year Syrian civil war byencouraging rebels and extremists.The announcements were, “in spirit and in letter directlyencourage extremists to seize power by force, despite theinevitable sufferings of ordinary Syrians that entails,”Aleksandr Lukashevich, Russia’s spokesman for Russia’s ForeignMinistry said in a statement. President Assad said in an interview with the Sunday Times, lastweek that Britain has a history of meddling in the region and has a“tradition of bullying and hegemony”. He continued thatBritain is determined to militarize the problem and is notinterested in trying to create dialogue between Syrians.The UN high Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guteres has saidthat Syria is “spiraling towards a full-scale disaster.”Latest figures from the UN show that up to 70,000 people havebeen killed and a million refugees have fled abroad, including400,000 since the beginning of this year.
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