Syrian opposition meets with British officials
ISTANBUL — Syria’s political opposition widened its outreach Monday, sending representatives to Britain as the Syrian government withstood signs of further isolation over an uprising that is increasingly resembling a prolonged armed struggle to oust President Bashar Assad.
William Hague, Britain’s foreign secretary, met with the opposition representatives, the Foreign Office said on its website. Hague did not specify what type of assistance, if any, was discussed, but he said in a statement that “we want to continue to step up the international pressure on the Assad regime, a regime that has long since lost its legitimacy in the eyes of the wider world.”
The Arab League has suspended Syria, and a growing number of countries, led by the United States and members of the European Union, have penalized Assad with economic sanctions. Turkey, which Assad had once counted as a friend, has also castigated him, given sanctuary to an insurgent group and threatened further action.
Turkey’s president, Abdullah Gul, who was about to begin a three-day visit to Britain, said in an interview with the BBC on Monday that Assad was not serious about meeting the legitimate demands of his political opponents, “so therefore we don’t have any more trust.”
The developments came as anti-Assad activist groups reported 12 new deaths Monday in the Syria uprising, which has claimed more than 3,500 lives by the United Nations’ count since it began in March.
Reuters said the latest civilian deaths included two youths killed by Syrian security forces in the central city of Homs, an epicenter of the movement, as the forces were looking for a Syrian soccer celebrity, Abdelbasset Saroud, who has been leading protest rallies against Assad.