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The Journal Gazette

Friday, March 08, 2013 5:00 am

Syrian envoy criticizes British aid to rebels

The Associated Press

A special envoy to Syria's president Friday criticized Britain's decision to provide non-lethal military equipment to Syrian rebels, saying it will hinder efforts for peace in the strife-torn country.

Buthaina Shaaban, the envoy of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, told reporters that it was surprising that Britain was aiding Syrian rebel forces comprising mainly Al-Qaida and other conservative Islamic groups.

"These are fundamentalist Al-Qaida and conservative Wahabi rebels who want to take Syria back to the dark ages," Shaaban said.

She warned that Britain and other Western powers that were supporting Islamic fundamentalist rebels in Syria were themselves vulnerable to attacks from such groups.

"Britain should not think that terror activities by such groups in Syria, will not one day go back to haunt Europe or Britain," she said.

Shaaban said the world had to recognize the sizeable presence of Al-Qaida among the rebel fighters in Syria.

Syria was ready for a dialogue to end the conflict but its efforts had not gained support with Western countries pushing for Assad's ouster, she said.

Shaaban is in India for talks with Indian leaders to rally support for Assad from the emerging economies of the BRICS grouping that comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

China and Russia, both members of the U.N. Security Council, have blocked efforts by the Western countries to impose sanctions and other measures to pressure Syria.

Shaaban held separate meetings Thursday with India's external affairs foreign minister, Salman Khurshid, and national security adviser Shivshankar Menon.

Khurshid raised India's concern about the escalation of violence in Syria, where an estimated 70,000 people have been killed in the last two years, the Ministry of External Affairs said.

India says it wants a peaceful resolution of the crisis with the participation of all parties in the conflict.