Syrian opposition envoy asks UK MPs to arm rebels

Walid Saffour, the London-based president of the Syrian Human Rights Committee, speaks during a meeting in Istanbul April 26, 2011. (Reuters)

The Syrian National Council’s representative in London, Walid Saffour, accused the regime of Bashar al-Assad of using chemical weapons on three different occasions against rebel fighters seeking to overthrow his government. He called on Britain to supply rebels with weapons and help shift the tide in the two-year uprising.

While speaking at a Parliament session that was attended by a number of British MPs, experts and researchers, Saffour said the Syrian opposition has evidence that proves government forces used chemical weapons against rebels.

The Syrian envoy said despite a heavy crackdown which included routine torture and indefinite detentions, Syrians only picked up arms after enduring eight months of brutality at the hands of Assad’s forces. He also denied that Syrians were divided on sectarian lines and said there is no difference between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims, Alawites and Christians

“All Syrians, regardless of religious affiliation, support the uprising and are working to overthrow Assad’s regime and put an end to the 40-year-old rule of the Assad family,” said Saffour.

Attendees at the parliament session expressed fears of extremist Islamist elements coming into power following the fall of Assad, but a number of MPs said that these fears should not be an excuse to ignore the atrocities being committed against the Syrian people at the hands of the regime.

Discussions of arming Syrian rebels are underway as European Union leaders are due to meet this week to discuss easing an EU arms embargo. Several statements from French and British governments in recent days in favor of arming the rebels may help tip the scale in favor of the rebels. The United States, which has provided non-lethal and humanitarian aid to the Syrian opposition, has so far refused to supply arms to the rebels for fear the weapons may end up in the hands of extremists.

Last Update: Friday, 22 March 2013 KSA 13:00 - GMT 10:00