Britain urges rethink on how to end Syria conflict

LONDON Thu Nov 8, 2012 12:12am GMT

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain wants to re-examine previously abandoned options in looking at ways to end the conflict in Syria, Prime Minister David Cameron's office said on Thursday.

Asked if these could include such measures as arming the Syrian rebels or creating a no-fly zone, an official from Cameron's office declined to say which specific options would be reconsidered.

"The prime minister wants to come back and look at things that were on the table a year ago which we didn't want to do then. He wants to put them back on the table," the official said.

"We haven't ruled anything in and we haven't ruled anything out ... This is the moment to get some impetus going forward. We want to put everything on the table," the official added.

Options that have been suggested in the past have included arming Syria's rebels and creating safe havens inside Syria enforced by Western air power. A European Union arms embargo on Syria expires on December 1.

Cameron on Wednesday said one of the first things he would talk to newly re-elected U.S. President Barack Obama about would be finding ways of doing more to end the conflict in Syria, and on Thursday he underlined that aim.

"Look, let's be frank, what we've done over the last 18 months hasn't been enough," Cameron said in remarks for release on Thursday.

"The slaughter continues, the bloodshed is appalling, the bad effects it's having on the region, the radicalisation, but also the humanitarian crisis that is engulfing Syria. So let's work together on really pushing what more we can do," he added.

Western countries have been thwarted from taking strong action at the United Nations Security Council by Russia and China, who have vetoed tough draft resolutions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

It is unclear how tougher action could be taken against Assad given Russian and Chinese resistance, but analysts have suggested unilateral action might be an option.

The prime minister visited a camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan on Wednesday, and a day earlier had suggested a safe exit from Syria could be arranged for Assad to end the violence, even if that meant he escaped a court trial.

In August, the United States and Turkey indicated they were studying a range of possible measures, including a no-fly zone, and on Wednesday Turkey said it would request that NATO station Patriot missiles along its border with Syria.

Also on Wednesday, Britain said it would begin contacts with Syrian opposition military figures, although British officials said that would not involve giving military guidance.

The Syrian opposition estimates some 38,000 people have been killed since a March 2011 uprising against Assad's rule, the initially peaceful protests turning into armed rebellion in response to brutal crackdowns by Assad's forces.

(Reporting by Mohammed Abbas; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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