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Britain backs rebels as Aleppo violence rages

The British government has said it will give more aid to rebel forces in Syria, from radio and satellite equipment to medical supplies. Meanwhile, there were reports of deaths as a bakery was shelled in Aleppo.

Free Syrian Army fighters clash with Syrian Army at Salah Edinne district, in the centre of Aleppo, August 7, 2012. Picture taken August 7, 2012. REUTERS/Shaam News Network/Handout (SYRIA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

Syrien Bürgerkrieg FSA Kämpfer in Aleppo

Foreign Secretary William Hague said that Britain would provide extra equipment worth five million pounds ($7.82 million, 6.3 million euros) to the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), calling the move "the right thing to do."

"The people of Syria cannot wait indefinitely, people are dying," Hague told reporters in London on Friday. "In the absence of diplomatic progress the UK will do much more. We will expand our support to the Syrian people and the Syrian political opposition with an extra five million pounds in non-lethal practical assistance."

British Foreign Minister William Hague speaks at an Australian-British Chamber of Commerce lunch in Sydney, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011.

Hague's foreign office said Britain had so far provided about $2.2 million in such assistance

The goods will include radio and satellite equipment, portable power generators, medical and sanitary equipment, mobile phones and possibly body armor.

"I have also agreed in principle that our assistance should include lifesaving protective equipment for civilians to help those carrying out vital work in the crossfire, and this could for instance include body armor," Hague said. One of the most vocal critics of President Bashar Assad's government, Hague described the Syrian leadership as "doomed."

The foreign secretary also said that Britain would not be providing weapons to the opposition, pointing to the continued reports of war crimes committed by the rebel forces in Syria.

The conservative minister said the decision was the upshot of failed attempts at the UN Security Council to impose tougher, potentially military, sanctions against the regime in Damascus - with Russia and China voting down three such resolutions.

Syrian troops and rebels clashed on Friday in the city of Aleppo, where 12 people were reported to have died when a shell crashed into a bakery.

In the fighting much of Aleppo's historic citadel, part of the UNESCO listed world heritage site, was destroyed by bombing. Some 20 people were said to have been wounded.

Activist groups say the 17 months of unrest in Syria have claimed over 20,000 lives.

Meanwhile, diplomats said veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi could be named next week to replace the U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan. Annan has stood down in frustration after months of diplomatic wrangling failed to resolve the dispute.

Diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi speaks with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter (not pictured) during a joint news conference in Khartoum in this May 27, 2012 file photo.

Veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahmini may take over Kofi Annan's special envoy post

Annan brokered an April peace agreement that never really took hold, with government and opposition forces continuing their conflict and refusing to enter into negotiations.

Brahimi has taken up UN jobs in crisis warzones like Afghanistan and Iraq in recent years. He is 78 years old.

"We want a strong successor to Annan," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Friday. "The successor can play a decisive role in starting a political process in Syria."

Daily conflict continues on the ground in Syria, with the main focus of the rebel and army forces still the country's second city, Aleppo. Situated in the north close to the Turkish border, it's considered a strategic target of the rebels as they seek to establish a stronghold in the country.

msh, rc/mz (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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