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Cameron: Britain could break with Syria arms embargo

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 12 Mar 2013 05:52 PM
Author: Reuters
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LONDON, March 12 (Reuters) - Britain could break with a European Union arms embargo on Syria, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Tuesday, allowing the flow of weapons to anti-government rebels battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The arms embargo is part of a package of EU sanctions on Syria that currently roll over every three months, with the last extension achieved with the agreement of all 27 EU members on March 1.

Britain pushed for and won an agreement to amend the embargo to allow the supply of non-lethal equipment such as body armour and armoured vehicles to rebels, but warned that in future it might act alone.

Without unanimous agreement between all EU members to either renew or amend the ban in three months' time, the embargo becomes void.

"I hope that we can persuade our European partners, if and when a further change becomes necessary, they will agree with us," Cameron told a parliamentary committee when asked whether Britain could "veto" the embargo.

"But if we can't, then it's not out of the question we might have to do things in our own way. It's possible," he added.

On Monday, France urged the European Union to look again at lifting the arms embargo, putting it at odds with Germany which said such a step could spread conflict in the region.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said ending the embargo would help level the playing field in the two-year-old conflict in which 70,000 people have died. His German counterpart Guido Westerwelle said that could lead to a proliferation of weapons in the region and spark a proxy war. (Reporting by Mohammed Abbas and Peter Griffiths; editing by Andrew Roche)

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