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Britain tries to amend EU arms embargo to Syria; chemical use reported

DAMASCUS, Syria, May 27 (UPI) — British Foreign Minister William Hague called on the European Union to end its arms embargo to Syria Monday so EU members could supply weapons to some rebels.

If European Union-wide action wasn’t possible, Hague said, each country could then consider its own sanctions policy, The Daily Telegraph reported.

“There is a difference over what is appropriate now for the EU to do,” Hague said. “In our view it’s important to show that we are prepared to amend our arms embargo so that [Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime] gets a clear signal that it has to negotiate seriously.”

Hague’s comments to EU foreign ministers came as the French newspaper Le Monde reported chemical weapons were frequently used by the Syrian government against the rebels.

The account, the culmination of a two-month undercover reporting assignment, said chemical weapons were used on several consecutive days in an area near Damascus that rebels entered in January.

Although there was no indication that a toxic gas was released, victims suddenly exhibited symptoms such as violent coughing, burning eyes and blurred vision.

The current arms embargo expires at the end of the month.

Hague stressed the importance of “doing the right thing for Syria” rather than the European Union remaining united on “every detail,” the Telegraph said.

During a news conference before a meeting on Turkey-European Union relations, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said he supports lifting the arms embargo, The New York Times reported.

“If we do not prevent this through the U.N. Security Council, at least we need to support the right of self-defense,” he said.

The Times said France supports amending the embargo but indicated the need for consensus. Austria, Sweden and the Czech Republic have expressed skepticism about easing the embargo because of concerns that arms could reach extremists.

Copyright 2013 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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