Syrian opposition meets Hague in London

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Representatives from the Syrian opposition met Foreign Secretary William Hague for the first time in London on Monday although he said it was too early for Britain to formally recognise them.

"We're not at the point of a formal recognition of them, I have appointed an ambassador-designate to conduct relations with them, but we are not at a point of formal recognition, partly because there are differing groups," Hague said.

Comparing the situation to the relatively rapid international recognition for Libya's rebels, Hague told BBC radio that in Syria there was not "a single national council as there was in Libya".

"They're not in control of territory as the council in Libya were and the international community has not yet reached that point," he said, adding that he was meeting representatives from "various Syrian opposition groups".

Hague said Britain was determined to "increase the pressure on the Assad regime" over its bloody crackdown on opposition demonstrators.

"I discussed this with the Secretary-General of the Arab League yesterday, and I believe they will wish to do at their further meeting tomorrow," he added.

The behaviour of the Syrian regime was "appalling and unacceptable", Hague said, and "we will do what we can to support democracy in Syria in the future".

"We've imposed several rounds of sanctions and we're working this week on a further round of sanctions which I hope we can agree next week," he added.

However, he reiterated that Britain was not planning to take military action in Syria along the lines of the air campaign which supported the rebel advance in Libya.

"We are not contemplating or advocating military action in Syria in the style of what we did in Libya," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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