Britain struggles in push to ease Syria arms embargo

By REUTERS
January 31, 2013 22:08

BRUSSELS - Britain's call to amend a European Union embargo on arms sales to Syria to help opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad met opposition on Thursday when EU governments warned it could allow weapons to end up in the wrong hands.

A package of EU sanctions against Syria comes up for renewal at the start of March, and Britain, backed among others by France, has said EU rules should be eased to allow some equipment to be sent to the rebels.

But many EU capitals are reluctant to agree any changes, arguing they could open the way for more arms to reach Assad or Islamist groupings among the Syrian opposition.

At a meeting in Brussels, EU foreign ministers agreed to continue discussions on the issue in February to determine what types of equipment, particularly protective gear, can be provided under existing rules and to find a compromise.

"On the one hand we have to support moderate forces of the opposition," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said after the meeting. "On the other hand it's also about avoiding escalating tensions."


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