LONDON, July 31 (KUNA) -- More foreign fighters will pour into Syria the
longer president Bashar Assad maintains his grip on power, the British
Government said Tuesday.
Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt warned the worsening civil war would
attract jihadists to the country to fill the void created by fierce battles
between Assad's forces and rebels.
In a interview with the BBC domestic radio, he would not confirm claims
from a British war photographer held hostage in Syria that 30 percent of his
captors were British jihadists.
"It must be true to say that since the initial pressure and opposition
against the Assad regime, which was local, the fight has been joined by others,
" Burt said.
"We said at a very early stage that unless this finished early, unless the
proposals to have a ceasefire and get political transition going in Syria
among Syrians happened, then the fight would be joined by others from outside.
There is clear evidence of this.
"The longer it goes on, without that ceasefire and political discussion,
the worse that will get."
Burt noted that the battle for Syria's second city, Aleppo, showed why a
United Nations Security Council resolution increasing the pressure on Assad
should have been agreed earlier this month.
The move was vetoed by the Russians and Chinese.
British war photographer John Cantalie, 41, was rescued last week after
being held prisoner for a week at an Islamic extremism training camp in north
He told The Sunday Times newspaper "30 percent of the jihadists who held us
The UK security services have been increasingly worried in recent years
about British-born terrorists travelling abroad to join Islamist fighters in
jihad across the world.
But Burt said today, "We have no accurate knowledge of how many people
might be involved and from where."
His comments came 24 hours after Syria's top diplomat in Britain quit his
post in protest at President's Assad "violent and oppressive" regime."
In a blow to Damascus, charge d'affaires Khaled Al-Ayoubi informed the
British authorities that he was "no longer willing" to represent the
government amid the brutal repression of rebels.
Meanwhile, fighting in Aleppo entered its 11th day amid growing
international condemnation of the government's crackdown on rebels.
Activists reported renewed bombardments of rebel-held neighbourhoods and
clashes in many parts of Syria's largest city as the army pushed on with its
offensive to retake the key northern city.
The battle for Aleppo, Syria's business hub with around three million
residents, has now lasted longer than the rebel assault on the capital that
regime troops crushed earlier this month.
Burt said it was difficult to tell who held the upper hand in the battle
"There is evidence government forces have been able to retake some areas of
the city, but the opposition forces are also still strong.
"It does illustrate the weakness of Assad's position some time ago when he
said Aleppo was a cornerstone for them.
"It shows that the regime's support is not as strong as he had indicated.
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