DUBAI - Saudi Arabia, a foe of Syrian President Bashar Assad, has urged the European Union to arm Syrian rebels without delay, following similar action by the United States.
The European Union lifted restrictions on arming the rebels in May when it failed to renew a weapons arms embargo before it expired on June 1. But Britain and France, which had advocated lifting the ban, said they would not send weapons before Aug. 1.
"The Syrian opposition is not only fighting an illegitimate regime, but also fighting a foreign occupier," Saudi state news agency SPA quoted Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal as telling an EU-GCC ministerial meeting in Bahrain on Sunday.
He was referring to Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah forces that have joined in recent fighting alongside Assad's military, notably spearheading the capture of the border town of Qusair.
"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ... refers to the EU resolution to lift the ban on arming the Syrian opposition, and calls for the implementation of this resolution in light of the grievous realities on the ground in Syria," Prince Saud said.
Gains by Assad's forces and Hezbollah's involvement have prompted the United States to promise the rebels military aid beyond the non-lethal equipment it had previously supplied.
The New York Times
reported in June that the supplies, to be coordinated by the CIA, might include anti-tank weapons.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been the most active Arab nations in backing the mostly Sunni Muslim Syria rebels.