UK: Concerned over signs of chemical arms in Syria

AP News
Posted: Apr 15, 2013 1:58 PM
UK: Concerned over signs of chemical arms in Syria

LONDON (AP) — The U.K. is increasingly concerned there is evidence that chemical weapons have been used in Syria, Britain's foreign secretary said Monday.

William Hague said such allegations must be urgently investigated, telling British lawmakers that he is urging President Bashar Assad's Syrian regime to cooperate fully and allow U.N. investigators unfettered access to all areas.

"The world is watching and those who order the use of chemical weapons or participate in their use must be held to account," he said.

Hague also reiterated that no decisions have been made to arm the Syrian rebels who want to overthrow Assad but stressed that Britain and France are convinced a European Union arms embargo will need to be amended or lifted altogether.

"We need greater flexibility," he told lawmakers.

The embargo expires at the end of May.

Hague earlier detailed the nonlethal aid that Britain has given the Syrian rebels — including five armored 4x4s, 20 sets of body armor, 107 generators and 130 solar-powered batteries — in a written statement to lawmakers.

In the House of Commons, he pointed out that Assad's regime still has access to flows of weapons while the rebels do not.

The British foreign secretary will be in Istanbul on Saturday for a meeting with the Friends of Syria group, which brings together the Syrian opposition's big donor nations from Europe and the Arab world.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also will attend the meeting, where the talks are expected to focus on the EU arms embargo and coordinating Western support and assistance to the Syrian opposition.

The United Nations says over 70,000 people have been killed in Syria's two-year civil war and over 1 million have fled the country.