Syria massacre: UK 'no right' to ban athletes

A Syrian official has said the UK "has no right" to deny their athletes access to the London 2012 Olympic games.

Mowaffak Joma, chairman of the Syrian Olympic committee, said the Olympic charter forbids host countries from banning athletes.

Deputy PM Nick Clegg has said Syrian delegation members with connections to the regime will be denied entry.

His comments came after Syria denied any involvement in the massacre of 108 civilians in Houla.

The United Nations (UN) say 32 of those killed, allegedly during and after clashes between Syrian security forces and opposition groups, were children under 10 years old.

'All support Assad'

Mr Joma told the BBC that "the authority of any host country is limited to organising and offering all necessary facilities to all participating athletes.

"If the British government has decided to ban anyone connected to the regime and to President Bashar-al Assad, I am telling you in advance they should ban all Syrian citizens, because we all support President Assad and support Syria."

Image caption Syria's Olympic chief says the whole delegation supports the Assad regime

The Syrian official added that it had been agreed with the International Olympics Committee (IOC) two weeks ago during a meeting in Russia that Syrian athletes would compete under the country's official flag of state, and not of the opposition and its army.

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr programme, Mr Clegg said that, in reference to the Syrian Olympic delegation, "as a government we have recently changed the rules about who we allow into this country and who we refuse entry to.

"If there is evidence that you have abused human rights and that is independently shown to be the case, you will not be able to come into this country.

"What I cannot do... sitting here is [provide] a list of the individuals to come, and are they coming as per the arrangements with the IOC."

Speaking ahead of a flight to Moscow for talks with the Russian foreign minister, Foreign Secretary William Hague said that all applications to come to the UK - whether during the Olympics or not - will be looked at "rigorously and vigorously".

He added: "We have already made it clear that if people try to come in where there is information linking them to serious human rights abuses, then we have the power to prevent them coming into the country.

"We do have the power to prevent them entering the UK, even when the Olympics is on."

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