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British far-right leader on Syria trip

Published: Updated:

The leader of the British National Party (BNP), Nick Griffin, is on a “fact-finding visit” to Damascus as part of a delegation of far-right and nationalist European politicians, The Guardian reported on Wednesday.

Griffin, a member of the European parliament (MEP) for Northwest England, recently attacked British government calls to arm the Syrian rebels using his Twitter account.

“Smelt like abattoir. Vile,” Griffin tweeted after being taken to the scene of a suicide bombing that killed at least 14 people in central Damascus on Tuesday. “Hague [Britain’s Foreign Minister] wants your taxes to arm these terrorists,” he expanded.

There were signs that Syrian government supporters were embarrassed by the high-profile visit by the BNP leader, The Guardian reported.

Syrian loyalists described a “low-level media visit” despite Griffin’s meeting with Syria’s prime minister, deputy foreign minister and his plans to meet the minister of information, who an official confirmed had invited the 28-strong European mission.

BNP spokesman Simon Darby said Griffin was not being paid by the Syrian regime and did not want his presence to be seen as an endorsement of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“What [Griffin] wants is to let people have a proper view of what is going on in Syria, because at the moment all we have is William Hague and his infantile war-mongering,” Darby was quoted by The Guardian as saying.

“He wants to ascertain just how many British citizens are fighting out there for the so-called Free Syrian Army and other elements opposed to Assad.

“He is representing the point of view of ordinary British people who don’t want any engagement in the Middle East and its troubles, any more than they wanted to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq,” added Darby.

Prime Minister David Cameron said on Wednesday that Britain intends to use its role as host of the G8 summit next week to encourage the belligerent parties in the Syrian conflict to attend a peace conference.

“We should use the G8 to try and bring pressure on all sides to bring about ... a peace conference, a peace process and a move towards a transitional government in Syria,” Cameron was quoted by Reuters as telling the British parliament.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will fly to London on Sunday for advance talks about Syria before the G8 summit in Northern Ireland next week, Cameron added.

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