Foreign Secretary William Hague has said the UK has decided to recognise the Syrian opposition coalition.
He told MPs the National Coalition of the Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces was the “sole legitimate representative” of the Syrian people.
He said they were now a “credible” alternative to the Assad government.
In the absence of a diplomatic solution, he told MPs the UK would not rule out any action - subject to international law - to save lives.
Up to 30,000 people have been killed in the 18-month conflict, the UK believes.
Those trying to bring down President Bashar al-Assad’s government moved closer to a united front when the rival leaders of Syria’s rebels formed the coalition after months of bitter division.
The Syrian authorities on Wednesday ordered airstrikes close to the tense Turkish border for the third consecutive day, and said a French decision to recognize and consider arming a newly formed coalition of Syrian government opponents was an “immoral” act “encouraging the destruction of Syria.”
“This is an immoral position because it allows the killing of Syrians,” said Faisal al-Miqdad, Syria’s deputy foreign minister, according to Agence France-Presse. “They are supporting killers, terrorists, and they are encouraging the destruction of Syria.”
On Tuesday, France became the first Western nation to fully embrace the new umbrella organization, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, which came together last weekend under Western pressure after days of difficult negotiations in Doha, Qatar.
On Wednesday, President François Hollande of France invited the leader of the group, Sheik Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, to Paris for talks, Reuters reported.
Ron McAndrew, a former prison warden, said he began to have doubts about the death penalty after seeing flames dance from the head of an inmate strapped into Florida’s electric chair.
“There was no way I could stop the execution,” said McAndrew, who was in charge of the electrocution that night in 1997. Smoke and a putrid odor filled the death chamber as the witnesses outside watched, agape. “I had to let it go on for 11 minutes.”
McAndrew, 74, was one of two former executioners who came to California this week to tell tales from the death chamber during a four-day tour of some of the state’s most conservative communities: Riverside, Bakersfield and Fresno.
The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty sponsored the tour of churches and college campuses as Californians prepare to vote on Proposition 34, next month’s ballot measure to replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole.
McAndrew, speaking in an interview Friday before an appearance at Cal State Fresno, said being an executioner caused him psychological problems. He said he finally sought help after seeing the dead men he executed sitting on the side of his bed at night.