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UK Politics

David Cameron says Syrian President Bashar Assad could be allowed a safe passage out of his country and immunity from prosecution


Bashar Assad, the Syrian President, could be allowed a safe passage out of his country and immunity from prosecution, David Cameron said today.

Although the move would enrage human rights campaigners, Mr Cameron said it would be worthwhile if it ended the bloodshed in Syria which has resulted in the death of up to 40,000 people.

Speaking in  Saudi Arabia during his three-day visit to Gulf states and the Middle East,  the Prime Minister said it “could be arranged” for President Assad to flee his country. He did not suggest where he might be given sanctuary but made clear that Britain would not offer to be a safe haven.

Asked by Al Arabiya television what he would say if the Syrian President asked for asylum, Mr Cameron replied: “Done. Anything, anything to get that man out of the country and to have a safe transition in Syria.”  He added: ”Of course, I would favour him facing the full force of international law and justice for what he's done. I am certainly not offering him an exit plan to Britain but if wants to leave, he could leave, that could be arranged.“

Tonight Downing Street said Mr Cameron has not discussed the idea with other United Nations Security Council members.

His official spokesman said: ”Obviously we would like Assad to face justice for the crimes he has committed but our priority, has to be an end to violence and a transition in Syria. That requires Assad to go.”

The UN human rights office has said Syrian officials suspected of committing or ordering crimes against humanity should face prosecution at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

UN investigators have been gathering evidence of atrocities committed by armed rebels as well as by government forces and pro-Assad militia.

The Prime Minister said Britain is not currently planning to arm the Syrian rebels but expressed “frustration” that the international community had not done more to prevent the “appalling slaughter”.