New British foreign minister promises hard line on Assad

New British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said: “There’s no question of working with Assad”

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New British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on Tuesday ruled out any possibility of working with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad over the country’s civil war.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced earlier Tuesday that Hammond was leaving his post as defence secretary and taking over from William Hague.

Speaking to journalists at the Farnborough International Airshow, Hammond promised a tough line on Syria.

“There’s no question of working with Assad,” he said. “The attacks on his own citizens, the bloodshed and the humanitarian crisis that has been generated are beyond the pale.”

The minister also promised Britain would work with moderate opposition elements to try and bring about democracy in the battle-ravaged nation, rather than cooperating with Islamist rebels.

Hammond, a prominent eurosceptic, said his appointment sent the message that Britain was serious about European reform and winning concessions from Brussels ahead of an in-out referendum on the country’s EU membership to be held if the Conservatives win next year’s general election.

“I believe that we can reform the European Union,” he added.

“And we can get a deal that the British people will endorse in a referendum.”

“It won’t be the politicians in smoke-filled rooms who decide whether the deal is the right one, it will be the British people.”

Hammond said last year that he supports Britain leaving the EU in a referendum unless significant powers are returned to London.

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