16 Mar 2013

Pressure on European leaders over Syrian arms

5:07 pm on 16 March 2013

Britain and France have asked other European Union countries to end an arms embargo on Syria so they can supply weapons to rebel groups fighting to overthrow the regime of the president Bashar al-Assad.

The leaders of the 27 EU countries are currently meeting in Brussels, and British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande have used the final day of the European Union summit to press European leaders to lift the embargo.

Both leaders want to offer more military help to rebels fighting against President Bashar al-Assad and say they have ask for a review of the embargo to be brought forward.

Mr Cameron said after two years of a dreadful conflict in Syria it is time for a change of policy on the EU arms embargo, the BBC reports.

He said there has to be a political solution, but that is more likely if the opposition becomes a stronger, more credible force.

Mr Cameron said lifting the embargo wouldn't necessarily mean giving arms to rebel groups.

Mr Hollande said he cannot allow people to be massacred by a regime that is not seeking a political solution.

He said if agreement cannot be reached at EU level, France would shoulder its responsibilities.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said just because Mr Cameron and Mr Hollande want change, that does not mean all the other leaders have to do the same.

However, she says it's worthwhile to try to bring about a uniform European position and Germany will participate in that process.

Meanwhile, the United States Treasury says it will end restrictions on American citizens sending money to the opposition rebel coalition in Syria.

The new rules will allow American citizens, companies and banks to send money to those forces struggling to topple the president, Bashar al-Assad.

The sanctions were imposed shortly after the start of the civil war two years ago.