PARIS - France has started helping rebel-held parts of Syria so these "liberated zones" can run themselves and is considering the possibility of supplying heavy artillery to protect them from government attacks, a diplomatic source said on Wednesday.

Paris said last week it had identified areas in the north, south and east that had escaped President Bashar Assad's control, creating a chance for local communities to govern themselves without residents feeling they had to flee Syria.

"In zones where the regime has lost control, such as Tal Rifaat (40 km north of Aleppo), which has been free five months, local revolutionary councils have been set up to help the population and put in place an administration for these towns so as to avoid chaos like in Iraq when the regime pulls back," the source said.

The source said France, which last week promised an extra 5 million euros ($6.25 million) to help Syrians, had started giving aid and money on Friday to five local authorities from three provinces - Deir al-Zor, Aleppo and Idlib. The areas are home to about 700,000 people.

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