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Britain, France issue warning to Assad

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, with his wife Asma (L), casts a vote during a referendum on a new constitution in Damascus, Syria earlier this year. UPI
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, with his wife Asma (L), casts a vote during a referendum on a new constitution in Damascus, Syria earlier this year. UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Now is the time for supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad to step away from the regime or face legal action, British and French officials said.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in New York announced plans to provide additional humanitarian assistance to Syrians displaced by ongoing conflict in their country.

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The Syrian president this week told local television that more time was needed to address the insurgency but described the situation as "better."

Hague, in a statement, said the British and French governments were working on the steps needed to bring the conflict to the attention of the International Criminal Court, however.

"If these don't succeed we look forward to a day when a different kind of government in place in Syria will take responsibility for voluntarily referring the situation to the ICC, as part of a long-term process of accountability and reconciliation in Syria," he said.

The United Nations has accused the Syrian government of war crimes during the 17-month conflict. Damascus, however, says it's tackling an insurgency fueled in part by its adversaries.

Hague advised those who continued to express support for the Syrian government to "think carefully" about their allegiances.

"Now is the time to step away from this regime and deny it moral and financial support," he said. "And we call on Assad supporters to distance themselves from the regime or face the increasing possibility in the future of being held to account for the regime's actions."

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