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Britain pledges body armor, vehicles to Syria’s opposition forces

Published: Updated:

The world's efforts to end the bloodshed in Syria had been an "abject failure", and urged the European Union to be prepared to "move further" if no political solution to the crisis was found, the UK's Foreign Secretary said on Wednesday.

In his strongest comments on the Syria conflict yet,William Hague said Britain would increase aid to Syria's opposition and supply it with armored vehicles and training, which would include advice on how to secure areas seized from President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

Hague said the non-lethal military aid, worth $20 million (15.4 million euros), was a "necessary, proportionate and lawful response" to a situation of "extreme" humanitarian suffering.

He said the chances of getting an immediate political solution to the nearly two-year-old crisis were slim and that diplomacy was taking too long. However, he played down the prospect of direct Western military intervention.

"In our view if a political solution to the crisis in Syria is not found and the conflict continues, we and the rest of the European Union will have to be ready to move further, and we should not rule out any option for saving lives," Hague told parliament.

The announcement comes after the European Union authorized on Thursday last week the supply of non-lethal military equipment and training to the Syrian opposition.

Britain will also give the rebels equipment to test for the possible use of chemical weapons by the regime, he added.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that "a lot of countries" were already training the rebels as part of stepped-up efforts to end the brutal conflict, which the United Nations estimates has cost at least 70,000 lives.

Hague said he would soon discuss Syria with Russia's foreign minister and deputy foreign minister as well as with the United Nations' Syria mediator Lakhdar Brahimi.

The number of Syrians who have fled their war-ravaged country and are seeking assistance has now reached 1 million since fighting broke out two years ago, the U.N.’s refugee agency said Wednesday.