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Britain doesn’t see Western troops for Syria: Hague

British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Monday called for urgent talks on an Arab League proposal for peacekeepers in in Syria, but said Western nations were unlikely to join the force.

“I don’t see the way forward in Syria as being Western boots on the ground, in any form, including in peacekeeping form,” he told a news conference during a visit to South Africa.

“But of course if such a concept could be made viable we will be supporting it in all the usual ways.”

He added that success depended on a “credible ceasefire” being established and an end to President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on civilians.

“Of course for peacekeepers to operate successfully, there must be a peace to keep. So far it has not been possible to secure that,” he said.

The Arab League made the call for UN peacekeepers at a meeting in Cairo on Sunday, and also endorsed a “Friends of Syria” group, which will meet in Tunisia next week.

“We will discuss urgently with them the proposals for a joint Arab League-United Nations peacekeeping force,” Hague said.

“Such a mission could have a very important role to play in saving lives, provided of course there was an end to violence against civilians, forces were withdrawn from towns and cities and a credible ceasefire was established so that monitors and peacekeepers could then play a useful role.”

In a statement issued earlier from London, Hague said Britain would play a “very active part” in the Friends of Syria group, which has similarities to the Libya contact group formed by international partners against Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi.

The Arab League said in a statement after the Cairo meeting that it would “ask the UN Security Council to issue a decision on the formation of a joint UN-Arab peacekeeping force to oversee the implementation of a ceasefire.”

It said diplomats from the league would also open contacts with the Syrian opposition and give them financial and political support against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Hague said the Arab League had taken “significant steps to increase the diplomatic and economic isolation of the Syrian regime”.

“The Arab League could not have sent a clearer message to Syria than the one it sent yesterday and we look forward to working closely with them in the coming days and weeks,” Hague said.