News Column

Syria Rebels Get Weapons, Want More

June 21, 2013

The Syrian rebel army on Friday said it had obtained advanced weapons and would demand more when the international contact group on Syria meets in Qatar.

"The qualitative weapons and ammunition have arrived and they have already been delivered to the rebels on the battlefronts inside Syria," Louay al-Mokdad, logistical coordinator for the Free Syrian Army (FSA), told dpa.

He said "Arab countries and other sisterly states" were due to deliver a second shipment but declined to give details.

The Friends of Syria group is expected to discuss support for the rebels' bid to oust President Bashar al-Assad when it meets in Doha Saturday.

"We will raise the issue of arming the rebels with the countries that are still reluctant to do this," al-Mokdad said.

France is one of several European Union states due to take part in the meeting. The United States, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates will also be represented.

In Paris, Foreign Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot confirmed that the rebels' request for weapons would be "one of the subjects discussed in Doha."

"Possible political decisions could be taken on this occasion," he said.

Lalliot also hinted that France could play more of a training and logistical role. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Thursday ruled out France supplying weapons until being satisfied they would not fall into the hands of groups, "who could turn against us."

The US, citing the use of chemical weapons by the al-Assad regime, announced last week it would give arms directly to opposition forces.

The EU arms embargo on Syria is to be lifted, but not until August.

Al-Assad's troops have in recent weeks regained several rebel-held areas, raising concerns among the opposition's allies.

At least 93,000 people have been killed in Syria since March 2011, according to the United Nations.

Spain on Friday arrested eight people on suspicion of sending fighters to Syria, in what Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz said was a "hard blow" to Jihadism in Spain.

Police said the arrests took place in the enclave of Ceuta, on the Moroccan coast. Most of the suspects were Spanish nationals. Media reported that the cross-border network recruited, indoctrinated the potential fighters.

Syria's 27-month-old conflict is believed to have drawn hundreds of foreign fighters.

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Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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