Just a quarter of Britons back Hague on arming rebels in Syria

Poll shows 78% think the military is tied up after Afghan and Iraqi conflicts

Less than a quarter of the public believes that the government should arm the rebels in Syria, according to a poll in the wake of Britain’s support for the lifting of an EU arms embargo.

Just 24% back giving weapons or military supplies to the forces fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s army, although more than half (58%) would support offering humanitarian aid.

Last week the European Union lifted its arms embargo on Syria, with the foreign secretary, William Hague, claiming that the policy was denying rebels the right to defend themselves when they were “having every weapon that’s ever been devised dropped on them”. A number of European states, led by Austria, continued to oppose lifting the embargo, but Britain insisted that it should be allowed to expire on Friday. Hague, in a concerted move with France designed to force Assad to the negotiating table, said that the decision gave the UK and others flexibility in responding to a worsening situation.

An Opinium/Observer poll published on Saturday suggests that public opinion would not be behind any military intervention, no matter how hands-off. In a sign of the public’s changing …read more