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French foreign minister says Syrian rebels need arms

In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the fall of Qusair underscored the Syrian rebels' need for more support in their fight against troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

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French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Wednesday that Syrian rebels fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad needed new weapon stocks, acknowledging that the regime had made a significant gain by retaking the strategic town of Qusair.

“There is an imbalance when it comes to weapons. Mr Bashar al Assad has planes and other weapons and the resistance fighters do not have the same resources,” Fabius lamented in an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24 and sister radio station RFI. “This explains why Qusair has fallen.”

“Things should be more balanced on the ground,” Fabius added, hinting at possible deliveries of arms just days after the European Union voted not to renew a ban on sales of weapons to Syria.

'No doubt' sarin gas was used

Qusair, located near the border with northern Lebanon, was retaken by Syria’s army this week. It is considered a strategic location because it serves as a main supply line between Damascus and the coast, and as a link to the Assad clan's native region and stronghold in north-eastern Syria.

“[Assad] scored a major victory. There is no doubt about it,” France’s top diplomat said.

Fabius also repeated that his government was certain Syria’s army had used chemical weapons during the bloody civil conflict, in particular the deadly nerve agent sarin.

Asked if chemical weapons had also been used by the opposition, Fabius said he was not certain, but that documented reports of the use chemical weapons for now only reliably pointed a finger at Assad.

Keeping Iran out

The French foreign minister said Russia, who has staunchly blocked action against Assad at the UN Security Council, had recently proved more cooperative in helping prepare Western-backed peace talks in Geneva.

But unlike Russia, France has staunchly opposed any Iranian involvement in such negotiations.

Fabius said Tehran would only bog down talks and try to secure Western concessions regarding its disputed nuclear programme.

Signalling the diplomatic difficulties, international envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said earlier in the day that the date for the proposed conference, known as Geneva 2, had slipped back to July from June.

 

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