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France asks EU to consider OK to ship Syrian rebels 'defensive weapons'

| Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, 8:50 p.m.

PARIS — France raised the possibility on Thursday of sending “defensive weapons” to Syria's rebels, but Russia warned that such a move would violate international law.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said his country will ask the European Union to consider lifting the Syrian arms embargo, which prevents weapons from being sent to either side.

“We must not militarize the conflict ... but it's obviously unacceptable that there are liberated zones and they're bombed” by President Bashar Assad's regime, Fabius said in an interview with RTL radio. “We have to find a good balance.”

The civil war in Syria, which began as an uprising against Assad's regime, has killed more than 36,000 Syrians since March 2011, according to anti-government activists. The fighting and flood of refugees seeking safety have also spilled over into several of Syria's neighbors, including Israel, Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.

The fighting has descended into a bloody stalemate, and rebels say they desperately need weapons to turn the tide.

“The question of defensive arms will be raised,” Fabius said, without providing details about what such arms would be. “This cannot be done without coordination between Europeans.”

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