BRUSSELS - The European Union took steps on Monday to provide direct aid potentially including security advice to rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad, but stopped short of lifting an arms embargo on the country.

The decision, taken at an EU foreign ministers' meeting, was a compromise after weeks of clashes between Britain, which pushed for easing the embargo to help rebels, and EU countries worried allowing more weapons into Syria could fuel violence.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he foresaw more talks in coming months on how the EU can help the opposition in Syria, but now London would use the new measures to offer help.

"We will certainly use the full leeway provided by this amendment to the embargo in order to provide greater assistance for the protection of civilians," Hague told reporters after meeting his EU counterparts in Brussels.

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