Britain giving Syrian rebels protection against chemical weapons

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain is to give Syrian rebels equipment to protect themselves against chemical and biological weapons as "a matter of special urgency", saying it would allow them to potentially survive a sarin gas attack.

In a written statement to parliament on Tuesday, Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain would deliver 5,000 escape hoods, nerve-agent pre-treatment tablets and chemical weapons detector paper to the Syrian National Coalition on or after August 3.

"There is evidence of attacks using chemical weapons in Syria - including sarin," he said. "We believe that the use of chemical weapons is sanctioned and ordered by the Assad regime."

Britain has repeatedly said it believes forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have made limited use of chemical weapons, something the Syrian government denies.

(Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Alison Williams)