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France Raises Issue of Arming Syrian Rebels

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France says it will bring up excluding defensive weapons from the current arms embargo on Syria in order to help rebels fighting against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Coordinated plan

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in an interview Thursday his country would work toward a coordinated plan for Syria with its European allies.

"For the moment, there is an embargo, so there are no arms being from the European side," he said. "The issue can be raised, it will no doubt be raised for defensive arms. And this is something that we can only do in coordination with the Europeans.''

​​France on Tuesday became the first Western power to recognize the newly formed coalition of Syrian opposition groups. French President Francois Hollande will meet leaders of the Syrian opposition coalition in Paris on Saturday.

The United States has declined to fully recognize the opposition coalition, saying the group must first prove its worth after its predecessor was dogged by feuding and accusations of Islamist domination.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday the formation of the coalition, which supersedes the widely-discredited Syrian National Council, was an important step, but did not offer it full recognition or arms.

Assad reaction

Syria denounced the organization, which it said had closed the door to a negotiated solution with President Bashar al-Assad.

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council has also recognized the rebel group.

The fifth meeting of the Friends of the Syria will be held on November 30 in Tokyo. Japan will chair the meeting.

Gunfire from Syria struck near an Israeli military outpost in the Golan Heights early Thursday. The Israeli military said no one was injured by the incident.

Profiles of three leaders of newly-founded Syrian National Coalition for Revolutionary Forces and Syrian Opposition:

Ahmad Maath Khatib

Khatib is the president of the coalition. He is a 52-year-old political activist and a former cleric at the Great Mosque of Damascus, Islam's fourth holiest site. Khatib is regarded as a religious moderate and a political independent, even after spending four years working for the government-owned oil company. Khatib has been jailed four times for taking part in demonstrations against President Bashar al-Asad. He fled for Cairo with his family in April.

Riad Seif

Syrian opposition members elected Seif as Khatib's deputy. He is 65-years-old and ran an Adidas sportswear store in Syria before Syrian authorities imprisoned him and forced him into bankruptcy for his pro-opposition activities. When Mr. Assad became president in 2000, Seif founded the Damascus Declaration, a movement calling for more liberalized political institutions. He also founded a political party to challenge the ruling Ba'ath Party. Seif fled to Amman last year.

Suhair Atassi

A human rights activist, Atassi is one of the few women among the opposition leadership. She runs the Jamal Atassi Forum, a Facebook group calling for political reforms and the restoration of the civil and constitutional rights suspended since 1963. Atassi has been frequently harassed and threatened by Syrian security forces who demand she shut down her forum.

Article by VOA News