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EU rejects Franco-British push on arms for Syrian rebels

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union governments rejected a Franco-British push on Friday to lift an EU arms embargo to allow weapons supplies to Syrian rebels, voicing fears this could spark an arms race and worsen regional instability.

France and Britain found little support for their proposal to ease the embargo at an EU summit in Brussels, EU diplomats said, although they asked the bloc's foreign ministers to look again at the issue next week.

"Nobody really is interested (in lifting the embargo)," an EU diplomat said. "There is no prospect of change any time soon."

EU governments want to support rebels waging a two-year uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But many expressed fears on Friday that allowing weapons to flow to rebels could lead to weapons falling into the wrong hands - especially Islamist militants in the rebel ranks - and lead Assad's backers to step up arms deliveries to his government.

European Council President Herman van Rompuy said leaders had asked their foreign ministers to look at the issue "as a matter of priority" at a March 22-23 meeting in Dublin.

The arms ban is part of a package of EU sanctions on Syria that rolls over every three months. An extension agreed last month expires on June 1. Without unanimous agreement to renew or amend it, the embargo lapses, along with the sanctions.

(Reporting by Justyna Pawlak, Adrian Croft and Robin Emmott; editing by Rex Merrifield and Mark Heinrich)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130315/eu-rejects-franco-british-push-arms-syrian-rebels