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Syria ex-premier renews call for arms for rebels


Dissident Syrian ex-premier Riad Hijab issued a new call on Friday for the arming of rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad's rule after Western governments again opposed sending more than non-lethal aid.

Hijab, whose shock flight to Jordan with his family last August was the highest-profile defection from the Assad regime, said foreign arms shipments were the sole way to tilt the balance in the two-year-old conflict.

"Arming the Free Syrian Army is the only way of changing the situation on the ground and getting out of the hole the tyrant has dragged us into," he said.

Hijab was speaking at a meeting of the Free National Gathering, an opposition grouping that he leads and which was founded in Amman in December with the stated intention of defending the interests of state employees sympathetic to the opposition and safeguarding state institutions when Assad falls.

Hijab's comments came after Western governments expressed renewed reluctance to arm the rebels.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle warned on Thursday that delivering weapons could result in a regional arms race, while US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday that the risk remained that any arms supplied could fall into the "wrong hands."