Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

Syrian envoy attacks UK rebel aid

Buthaina Shaaban, special envoy of Syrian president Bashar Assad, addresses a press conference in New Delhi, India (AP)
Buthaina Shaaban, special envoy of Syrian president Bashar Assad, addresses a press conference in New Delhi, India (AP)

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

Buthaina Shaaban, an envoy of Bashar 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," said Ms Shaaban.

She warned that Britain and other Western powers that were supporting Islamic fundamentalist rebels 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."

Ms Shaaban said the world had to recognise the sizeable presence of al Qaida among the rebel fighters in Syria.

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

Ms Shaaban was 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 UN Security Council, have blocked efforts by Western countries to impose sanctions and other measures to pressure Syria.

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

Mr Khurshid raised India's concern about the escalation of violence in Syria, where about 70,000 people have been killed in the last two years, said the ministry of external affairs.

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