Britain pledges to step up support for Syria rebels

LONDON Fri Aug 3, 2012 4:35am EDT

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain promised more non-military support for Syrian rebels on Friday after the resignation of envoy Kofi Annan highlighted the failure of international diplomacy to halt the 17-month-old conflict in Syria.

"That doesn't mean ... that we give up on diplomacy," British Foreign Secretary William Hague told BBC Radio 4. "We don't give up on the diplomacy with Russia and with China. But we will have to do other things as well."

Moscow and Beijing have frequently complained about Western and Arab backing for the insurgents locked in an increasingly bloody drive to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying pressure should be put on both sides to stop the violence.

"We will over the coming weeks increase our practical but non-lethal support to the opposition," Hague said. "We have helped with communications and matters of that kind and we will help them more in this situation given the scale of death and suffering and the failure so far of the diplomatic process."

Assad says the insurgency is the work of foreign-backed "terrorists", with his own forces acting to restore stability.

Britain and the United States have blamed Russia and China for the failure of the peace mission Annan had conducted on behalf of the United Nations and Arab League.

"It (the diplomatic process) is not dead but ... it is a bleak moment," said Hague, who met Russian President Vladimir Putin in London on Thursday. "Diplomacy has not worked so far. Diplomacy has so far failed the people of Syria."

(Reporting by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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