UK formally recognizes Syria opposition
Published Tuesday, November 20, 2012
The United Kingdom formally recognized a newly-established opposition bloc as the sole representative of the Syrian people on Tuesday, as violence ensued across the country.
Britain's recognition of the opposition National Coalition came as fighting raged across Syrian flashpoints, including in the northern town of Ras al-Ain where a watchdog said dozens died in clashes between rebels and a Kurdish militia.
Also in the north, rebel fighters have taken over a large military base, carting off tanks, armored vehicles and truckloads of munitions. AP reporters who visited late Monday saw the dead bodies of seven Syrian soldiers as rebels looted the buildings.
Near the capital, Syrian government soldiers backed by tanks battled to oust rebel forces from an opposition stronghold in a Damascus suburb on in the heaviest fighting in the region for months.
Syria’s state news agency said an "armed terrorist group" attacked an oil derivatives pipeline linking Homs and Damascus in the Sultaniya area of southern Homs, causing a fire and heavy smoke which residents said was visible from the centre of the city.
A crude oil pipeline in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor was also blown up. SANA quoted an oil ministry source saying pumping was expected to resume in the next few days, adding that the same pipeline had been targeted twice in the last two weeks.
In announcing Britain's recognition of the National Coalition formed in Doha on November 11, Foreign Secretary William Hague told parliament he made the decision after leaders of the opposition assured him that they have backing inside Syria and would respect human rights.
The move comes one week after France became the first Western country to recognize the coalition and after the European Union on Monday said it "considers them legitimate representatives of the aspirations of the Syrian people."
Britain was the tenth country to do so following France, Italy, Turkey and the Gulf Arab states.
But even as momentum for recognizing a credible opposition to the Syrian government gathered steam, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, on a visit to Cairo, cautioned that the situation on the ground could escalate further.
"We are deeply concerned about the continued militarization of the conflict, horrendous violations of human rights and the risk of Syria turning into a regional battleground as the violence intensifies," Ban told reporters.
Syrian rebels, meanwhile, announced Tuesday the creation of a security service to "defend the Syrian revolution."
Its objective is "to be a powerful security shield to protect the sons of the revolution from attacks, arrests and killings," and to hunt down members of the opposition who have committed abuses, according to a video statement by rebels.
(AFP, Reuters, AP)