Hague Condemns Syrian Human Rights' Abuses

The Foreign Secretary William Hague and Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt have met Syrian human rights activist Catherine al-Talli and opposition member Bassam Ishak to discuss human rights' issues in the troubled country.

Following the meeting, the Foreign Secretary said: "Catherine al-Talli and Bassam Ishak have been forced into exile by a brutal regime that has lost all legitimacy.

"President Assad must step aside so that credible reform can begin.

"Syrians from all walks of life and all religious communities have been united in their opposition to the regime's attempts to violently suppress their legitimate aspirations for a better future.

"It is now vital for the many groups that form the Syrian opposition to unite and work together to define a shared vision for the future of Syria.

"We urge them to continue to ensure that their protests are peaceful, to renounce sectarianism, and to work towards a Syria where the political system is inclusive, representative and adheres to international human rights standards," he said, adding that reports of human rights abuses in Homs and other cities continue to emerge.

"The Syrian regime must end the violence and allow comprehensive reform," he concluded.

Currency Losses

Meanwhile, Mr Hague's Department has been slammed by the Commons' Public Accounts Committee after the Foreign Office overspent by £91m on foreign currencies and failed to manage fluctuations in the money markets.

Citing the various problems in Arab nations such as those in Syria as being partly to blame, a report by MPs has said that the Treasury is also partly to blame because it only allowed the Foreign Office to buy and sell currency on a certain day each month, whatever the predicted changes in price.

Margaret Hodge, the Chair of the committee, said the inquiry found that the Foreign Office's currency problems were exposed following a decline in the value of sterling in 2009.

"Until 2008 the Treasury protected the department against exchange-rate fluctuations. Removing that protection made the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) budget vulnerable to a fall in the pound's value.

"To make matters worse, the Treasury stopped the department from managing that risk effectively by only allowing the FCO to buy foreign currency in advance on one single day each month."

However, with things moving fast across Arab states, she did admit: "Recent events in the Middle East demonstrate that the FCO cannot always predict where additional resources may need to be directed.

"The Department should develop contingency saving measures so that it can respond to unexpected worldwide events without derailing its plans to reduce spending," she said.


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