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London (AFP) Dec 06, 2012
Britain will press its European partners next week to amend the arms embargo on Syria to allow them to provide weapons to rebels fighting the regime, Europe minister David Lidington said Thursday.
"Having successfully amended the EU arms embargo (and sanctions package) by setting a three-month renewal period, we will make fresh arguments in support of amending the arms embargo ahead of the March 2013 deadline in a way that offers sufficient flexibility to increase practical support to the Syrian opposition," Lidington said in a written statement to parliament.
The statement outlined Britain's expectations for a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Brussels starting on Monday.
Britain has formally recognised a newly-formed opposition bloc as the sole representative of the Syrian people and has been offering practical support, but this cannot include weapons at the moment because of the EU embargo.
Brussels agreed late last month to extend its sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad's regime, including the arms embargo, for a further three months, after they were due to expire on November 30.
The Syrian opposition bloc's representative to Britain, Walid Saffour, visited the Foreign Office in London on Thursday for a meeting that officials hailed as "a sign of the progress the national coalition are making".
Meanwhile Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was due to meet with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in Dublin on Thursday, as world leaders seek an end to the Syrian conflict.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague was also due to hold talks with Lavrov in the Irish capital, which is hosting a ministerial meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
US officials hope there may be a new willingness by Moscow, a staunch ally in Damascus, to probe ways to bring more pressure to bear on Assad to step down.
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