LONDON - Britain has abandoned plans to arm Syrian rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad and believes he might survive in office for years, sources familiar with government thinking say.
In one of the gloomiest assessments of the conflict yet, the sources also told Reuters that a peace conference to try to end the conflict might not happen until next year if at all.
"Britain is clearly not going to arm the rebels in any way, shape or form," said one source, pointing to a parliamentary motion passed last week urging prior consultation of lawmakers.
The reason for the shift was the largely hostile public opinion and fears that any weapons supplied could fall into the hands of Islamists.
"It will train them, give them tactical advice and intelligence, teach them command and control. But public opinion, like it or not, is against intervention," the source said.