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France May Supply Arms to Syrian Rebels Without EU Accord

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said, there is an “imbalance” in Syria because Russia and Iran are sending weapons to President Bashar al-Assad while rebels lack arms to battle the government. Photographer: Pierre Andrieu/AFP/Getty Images

March 14 (Bloomberg) -- France may start delivering weapons to Syria’s anti-government rebels without agreement from its European Union partners, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.

There is an “imbalance” in Syria because Russia and Iran are sending weapons to President Bashar al-Assad while rebels lack arms to battle the government, Fabius said today on France Info radio. France is working with the U.K. on the matter and wants to move forward an EU meeting to discuss the 27-member bloc’s embargo on sending arms to Syria, Fabius said.

The Syrian conflict has killed more than 70,000 people and the United Nations said this month that 1 million refugees had fled to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and other countries.

U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters in London today that while Britain’s policy was largely similar to France’s, it has no plans to send lethal weapons to the rebels. “We are on the same page in many ways,” Hague said. “We have no plans at the moment to do anything different to what I announced in Parliament last week.” That included the provision of armored vehicles and body armor.

“There is no such thing as non-lethal military aid,” Brigadier Ben Barry, senior fellow for land warfare at the International Institute for Strategic Studies and a former officer in British army, told journalists in London today. “An armored Land Rover supplied to the rebels could be used to move casualties, but equally to move commanders in support of an attack.”

Independent Action

Prime Minister David Cameron said two days ago he could envision circumstances in which Britain might have to take independent action in Syria if it was unable to reach agreement with its European partners on future steps.

“It’s not out of the question that we might need to do things in our own way,” Cameron told a committee of lawmakers. “We have an independent foreign policy. If for instance, action needed to be taken to bring about change in Syria, and we felt our European partners were holding it back, we’d have to change the approach.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Helene Fouquet in Paris at hfouquet1@bloomberg.net; Thomas Penny in London at tpenny@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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