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France to discuss ending ban on arming Syria rebels

Nov. 15, 2012 12:49 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 26, 2012 12:14 P.M.)
PARIS (Reuters) -- France will discuss supplying arms to Syrian opposition forces with its European partners in the coming weeks now that an opposition coalition has been established, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Thursday.

France is wary of militarizing the 20-month-old conflict, but is also wary of leaving areas under opposition control unprotected against bomb attacks, Fabius told RTL radio.

"At the moment there is an embargo on arms, so no weapons are being delivered from Europe. The question will undoubtedly be raised for defensive arms but it's something we can only do in coordination with the rest of Europe," Fabius said.

He said Paris was talking to Moscow and United Nations special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi over a solution, as it waited for the Syrian coalition to form a provisional government in the weeks ahead that could open the door to supplying arms.

"We want to avoid going towards militarization. On the other hand we must prevent liberated zones from being destroyed. We must find a fair balance," Fabius said.

Paris on Tuesday became the first European capital to recognize the coalition as sole representative of the Syrian people and said it would look at arming rebels battling President Bashar Assad's forces once a provisional government is formed.

France has thus far ruled out sending weapons, concerned they could get into the hands of radical Islamists, but the coalition is urging European states to allow it access to arms.

President Francois Hollande will meet George Sabra, the new leader of the Syrian National Council -- now a minority player in the wider coalition -- in Paris on Saturday, Fabius said.
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