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EU lifts arms ban on Syrian opposition

THE European Union has decided to lift the arms embargo on the Syrian opposition while maintaining all other sanctions against President Bashar Assad's regime after June 1.

The move was announced last night by British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Mr Hague said that the decision "sends a very strong message from Europe to the Assad regime," after an all-day meeting that laid bare EU hesitation on feeding arms in a foreign conflict only months after it won the Nobel Peace Prize. No other EU member appeared to have immediate plans to send arms to the rebels. "I have not detected any readiness from anyone at this time to contemplate that particular option," Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said.

Britain and France - the EU's biggest military powers - had been pushing the bloc to lift its embargo on delivery of weapons into Syria to help the embattled opposition.

Earlier Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eamon Gilmore was among those resisting the French and British proposals.

But the 27 EU nations agreed everything possible should be done to control any exports and make sure they do not fall into the hands of extremists or terrorists.

"Member states shall require adequate safeguards against misuse of authorisations (for export) granted," the joint EU text said.

Austria had been holding back a joint decision, insisting no arms should be sent abroad.

Irish Independent