Syrian Rebels Account For All Weapons Received, Leader Says

by
Reuters
A Syrian rebel leader sought to persuade European governments to lift an arms embargo for the opposition fighting president Bashar al-Assad, saying any weapons provided would be accounted for and possibly returned.

A Syrian rebel leader sought to persuade European governments to lift an arms embargo for the opposition fighting president Bashar al-Assad, saying any weapons provided would be accounted for and possibly returned.

Brigadier Selim Idris said on Wednesday during a visit to Brussels that Syrian rebels recorded the arms they received.

"The weapons are registered on lists with numbers on each weapon. We distribute those weapons. And we know precisely who has received them," he told a news conference.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are widely believed to be providing weapons to the rebels, but the United States says it does not wish to send arms for fear they may find their way to Islamist hardliners who might then use them against Western targets.

European governments eased some restrictions on aid to the rebels this month but kept an arms embargo in place, also due to concerns over their ability to control who would receive those weapons.

However, in a sign that Western attitudes on the issue are softening, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday Washington was increasingly confident that weapons being sent to the opposition by other countries were going to moderate forces.

"We will control the movement and distribution of the weapons," Idris said, addressing concerns over arms reaching their destination.

"And after the fall of the regime we are prepared to return all the weapons on the basis of the numbers on them. If you give us 10 rifles, we will send back 10 rifles. They are all numbered."

But he said the European arms embargo was giving Assad an unfair advantage.

"The embargo is regrettable. When we are told that more weapons would mean more bloodshed on Syrian soil, we are not entirely in agreement," he said. "It (the embargo) has been imposed on the victims."

Some 70,000 people have been killed in Syria and a million have fled the country in a two-year uprising, the United Nations says. The conflict began as peaceful protests that turned violent when Assad tried to crush the revolt with force.