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Syrian Uprising: Hague Announces 'Non-Lethal Support' For Political Opposition

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The UK Foreign Office has announced extra funding for the Syrian political opposition, including training for 'citizen journalists' documenting human rights abuses.

Foreign Secretary William Hague will announce in a speech on Thursday that UK will provide an additional £500,000 of "non-lethal support" to the Syrian opposition.

More than 9,000 people have died in the year-long uprising in Syria, according to the United Nations.

Hague, who has previously called on President Assad to step down, will say in a speech at the Lord Mayor’s Easter Banquet that the UK "has agreed to provide a further half a million pounds of British support to Syria’s political opposition.

"It includes agreement in principle for practical non-lethal support to them inside Syria.

"It will help hard-pressed opposition groups and brave civil society organisations inside and outside the country to document the regime’s violations and gain the skills and resources they need to help build a democratic future for Syria."
A UK expert mission was sent to the region in March to help document the atrocities that have taken place, the Foreign Office said.

It added the UK has "trained Syrian human rights activists to document violations accurately and in accordance with international standards". The material collected by these citizen journalists, more often associated with activist networks like Avaaz, will be used to ensure "a day of reckoning" for those responsible.

In February Hague said he recognised the Syrian National Council (SNC), based in Turkey, as a legitimate representative of the people.

Speaking in February at the 'Friends of Syria' conference held in Tunisia, Hague said:

“I think we have seen enough in the last few weeks to know that the Assad regime will go down in history as a criminal regime.

"The United Kingdom will continue our work to help document the crimes that are taking place so that one day those responsible for them will have to answer for their actions."

But despite the prominence of the SNC, analysts describe the Syrian opposition as generally divided.

A recent meeting of opposition groups and the SNC was marked by frequent arguments and walk-outs, according to reports.

Above: protesters wave Syrian revolutionary flags during a demonstration in Daraa, Syria.

The broad anti-government opposition also includes the armed Free Syrian Army, who while under extreme pressure from government forces are also battling intense internal divisions. The FSA was described as a "brand" more than a unified fighting force by an influential US think tank earlier this month.

Even amid this confusion, the Foreign Office said that it is working to create "a unified vision for a transition process to a new Syria."

The government has given around £450,000 to the Syrian opposition in the last eight months, and plans to give another £500,000.

The Foreign Office said the money has been used for:

  • strategic communications and media skills training
  • conflict resolution and negotiation
  • training to independent civil society
  • training and advice to Syrian human rights defenders
  • mentoring for citizen journalists

"Our funding will also support civil society organisations to document human rights abuses feeding into wider HMG work on accountability of the Assad regime, and a commitment to practical support to the opposition and civil society groups to help them prepare for a sustainable political transition," the Foreign Office said.