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Syrian rebels seek weapons from EU

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Rebels fighting president Bashar Assad's forces have asked the EU to quickly supply them with sophisticated weapons

Rebels fighting president Bashar Assad's forces have asked the EU to quickly supply them with sophisticated weapons

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Rebels fighting president Bashar Assad's forces have asked the EU to quickly supply them with sophisticated weapons

Syria's main opposition bloc has urged the European Union to quickly supply rebels fighting president Bashar Assad's forces with sophisticated weapons and help them overthrow his regime.

The call follows the EU's decision this week to let the Syrian arms embargo expire, paving the way for individual countries in the 27-member union to send weapons to Assad's outgunned opponents.

But the decision may have little impact on Syria's two-year-old conflict, since no single European country is expected to send lethal weapons to the rebels in the coming weeks.

A Syrian National Coalition statement urged the EU to promptly send "specialised weaponry to repel the fierce attacks waged against unarmed civilians" by Assad's regime and its Hezbollah and Iranian allies.

More than 70,000 people have been killed in the Syrian civil war. Syria's main rebel group has urged the EU to supply weapons to rebels fighting president Bashar Assad's forces and and help them overthrow his regime.

There are deep divisions in the EU over ways to end the bloodshed in Syria, and even Britain and France - who want to arm the rebels - have said they have no immediate plans to do so until diplomacy has been given a chance. The US and Russia are trying to launch Syrian peace talks at a conference in Geneva, possibly next month.

Meanwhile, Syria's foreign minister insisted Assad will remain the country's president at least until elections in 2014 and might run for another term, terms that will make it difficult for the opposition to agree to UN-sponsored talks on ending the civil war.

Walid al-Moallem also said that any deal reached in such talks would have to be put to a referendum, raising a new condition that could complicate efforts by the US and Russia to bring the two sides together in Geneva, possibly next month.

In an interview with the Lebanese TV station Al-Mayadeen, the Syrian foreign minister also warned that Syria "will retaliate immediately" if Israel strikes Syrian soil again.

Earlier this month, Israeli warplanes struck near the Syrian capital, Damascus, targeting purported Iranian missiles intended for Assad's ally Hezbollah, a Lebanese militia.