BNP leader Griffin visits Syria
British National Party leader Nick Griffin has paid a surprise visit to Syria after being invited by the regime of President Bashar Assad to take part in a fact-finding visit to the war-torn country.
Writing on Twitter, Mr Griffin said he wanted to highlight the risk that the UK Government's support for opposition fighters seeking to oust Assad could plunge the Middle Eastern state into an "Iraq-style hell of sectarian hate".
And he linked the kind of Islamist militancy espoused by some of the rebels with the murder of soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich last month.
BNP spokesman Simon Darby said Mr Griffin, who is an MEP for North West England, was invited to Damascus as part of a delegation of European politicians, including MEPs and MPs from Belgium, Russia and Poland.
The spokesman stressed he was not being paid by the Syrian regime and did not want his presence in the country to be seen as an endorsement of Assad.
"What he wants is to let people have a proper view of what is going on in Syria, because at the moment all we have is William Hague and his infantile war-mongering," said Mr Darby. "He wants to ascertain just how many British citizens are fighting out there for the so-called Free Syrian Army and other elements opposed to Assad.
"He is representing the point of view of ordinary British people who don't want any engagement in the Middle East and its troubles, any more than they wanted to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq. He is MEP for the North West and he is sick and tired of seeing lads from Manchester and Liverpool coming back in body bags or with arms and legs missing because the Government got them involved in business that isn't any concern of ours."
Mr Griffin crossed into Syria from neighbouring Lebanon and posted a series of comments on Twitter.
"Crossed border into Syria yesterday," he said. "Now in Damascus, which is busy, a modern, bustling city. Security rather like Belfast in Troubles. Fact finding mission. Cameron & Hague plan to send UK money & weapons to rebels dominated by Islamist jihadis like killers of Lee Rigby.
"Occasional explosions in distance but life in capital normal. Traffic busy, shops full of goods. Families out in sun. Why turn stable secular state into Iraq-style hell of sectarian hate? More madness from the people who dragged us to costly war in Iraq & Afghan(istan)."