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Britain, France urged to show restraint before arming Syrian rebels

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Anthony Faiola
Washington Post
May 28, 2013

LONDON — A day after halting the European Union’s weapons embargo on Syria, Britain and France are facing criticism from Russia, and pressure at home and abroad, to show restraint before acting to arm the rebels who are trying to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Britain, along with France, scored a diplomatic victory in Paris on Monday, effectively blocking an attempt by other European nations to extend the regional embargo that has prevented them from sending weapons to help the Syrian opposition. Britain said it has no immediate intention to ship arms, and in Paris and London, Monday’s move was portrayed as a precautionary tool aimed at pressuring Assad to negotiate an end to the conflict.

But the dropping of the embargo nevertheless opened a possible route for Britain and France, which have been leading the charge in the West for more support to the Syrian opposition, to act unilaterally should they choose to.

On the heels of French intervention in Mali, the move once again underscored the inability of the E.U. to forge a united front on major foreign policy issues. It was bitterly opposed by a number of European countries, including Austria. They fear that any arms sent to the rebels could fall into the hands of Islamist extremists within the Syrian opposition and lead to more regional spillover of the conflict.

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This article was posted: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 at 10:32 am

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