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Britain Pledges Further Aid To Syrian Opposition

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Thursday that his government has decided to allocate a further 500,000 pounds (US$795,000) to the "non-lethal" assistance being provided to Syrian opposition groups calling for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad.

In a speech delivered at the London mayor's annual Easter banquet on Thursday, Hague said the new aid includes an "agreement in principle" for providing direct assistance to opposition groups inside Syria.

Although Britain has already provided 450,000 pounds (nearly $716,000) in aid to the Syrian opposition groups since last year, those funds were used to provide assistance to Syrian exiles in the West and opponents of the Syrian regime based in neighboring countries like Turkey.

Hague said Thursday that the new aid package includes satellite communications equipment as well as training schemes for Syrian human rights activists to record and document evidence of atrocities committed by the regime's forces for possible future trials.

"It will help hard-pressed opposition groups and brave civil society organizations inside and outside the country to document the regime's violations and gain the skills and resources they need to help build a democratic future for Syria," Hague said.

"The behavior of the Assad regime so far is as futile as it is morally indefensible," Hague stated, noting that the Syrian government has recently agreed to a six-point peace plan proposed by former UN chief Kofi Annan, including political transition, to end the crisis.

"President Assad and his allies ... must be left in no doubt that if there is not a political transition that reflects the will of the people, then they will be shunned by the international community and we will close every door to them. They will face still more sanctions," Hague warned.

Earlier in the week, Annan, UN-Arab League Special Envoy for Syria, indicated that the Syrian government had accepted his peace plan. The UN Security Council (UNSC) and the Arab League have already endorsed Annan's plan and urged the Syrian government and the opposition to implement it at the earliest.

Annan's proposals seek to stop the violence and killings, give access to humanitarian agencies, release detainees, ensure freedom of movement for journalists, respect freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully, and start an inclusive political dialogue to address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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