Britain wants transition in Syria, not revolution

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 13, 2012 8:04 PM
Britain wants transition in Syria, not revolution

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Britain wants to see a transition of power to the opposition in Syria rather than a revolutionary overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad, Prime Minister David Cameron said late on Tuesday.

Syria's violent crackdown on rebel areas and how best to galvanize a response to it will feature in talks between Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on Wednesday, although military action is not seen as appropriate for now.

The United Nations says more than 8,000 people have died in a year-long uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's authoritarian rule and 230,000 Syrians are estimated to have fled their homes.

"We're all frustrated by Syria. What's happening in Homs is completely appalling. I'm endlessly kicking the tires and asking what else can be done," Cameron told reporters.

"The shortest way of ending the violence is a transition where Assad goes, rather than a revolution from the bottom."

While the United States and European nations were prepared to impose a no-fly zone to aid Libyan opposition fighters in their successful rebellion against Muammar Gaddafi, Britain fears doing so in Syria would prove to be a more complicated and difficult task.

Arming rebel groups has also been ruled out for now, with Obama and Cameron eager to increase the pressure on Assad to step aside through diplomatic means and through economic sanctions.

The Syrian parliament said Assad had ordered a legislative election for May 7, to be held under a new constitution.

Both Russia and China have welcomed Assad's reform pledges, including the promised election, and have blocked moves in the United Nations to censure the Syrian leader.

UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan is believed to have told Assad he wanted an immediate cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access to conflict zones and political dialogue.

(Reporting by Matt Falloon; editing by Todd Eastham)