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U.K. ready to protect Syrian opposition

March 6, 2013 at 11:06 AM

LONDON, March 6 (UPI) -- Body armor and non-lethal military items need to find their way to Syrian rebels as hopes for a diplomatic solution fade, the British foreign secretary said.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague told lawmakers Wednesday that London was growing frustrated with the lack of progress toward a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Syria.

The Syrian civil war enters its third year in March. The United Nations estimates that at least 70,000 people have died and another 1 million fled their homes due to the conflict.

"This is a desperate situation of increasingly extreme humanitarian suffering," Hague said.

Last month, the European Union called on Damascus to take advantage of the opportunity presented by Syrian opposition groups for a political dialogue. The European Union said, however, it was debating an arms embargo as hopes for diplomacy diminished.

Hague said he saw no signs that Syrian President Bashar Assad was ready to engage in talks to end the crisis, favoring military means instead.

Hague said London was ready to provide non-lethal and protective equipment to Syrian opposition groups. That assistance, he said, may include body armor and armored vehicles.

"Securing a diplomatic breakthrough remains of course our objective," he said. "But the fact remains that diplomacy is taking far too long and the prospect of an immediate breakthrough is slim."

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