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France providing aid to rebel-held areas of Syria - reports

Published time: September 06, 2012 01:33
Edited time: September 06, 2012 05:33
Members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) shoot at advancing government troops in the al-Jadeida neighbourhood, in the Old City of Aleppo, on August 21, 2012. (AFP Photo/Phil Moore)

Members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) shoot at advancing government troops in the al-Jadeida neighbourhood, in the Old City of Aleppo, on August 21, 2012. (AFP Photo/Phil Moore)

France has started providing direct aid and money to rebel-controlled areas of Syria and is even considering supplying anti-aircraft weapons to the opposition, a diplomatic source has said.

The aid began being supplied last Friday, to five local authorities in so called “liberated zones” located in three provinces – Deir al-Zor, Aleppo and Idlib, the source said on condition of anonymity.

Last week, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius promised that such aid was in the pipeline.

"In zones where the regime has lost control, such as Tal Rifaat (40 km north of Aleppo), which has been free five months, local revolutionary councils have been set up to help the population and put in place an administration for these towns so as to avoid chaos like in Iraq when the regime pulls back," the source said as cited by Reuters.

With pressure mounting and a threat of foreign intervention looming, France – Syria’s former colonial ruler – is considering supporting the rebels with artillery.

The diplomatic source said opposition forces had asked for anti-aircraft weapons. "It's a subject that we are working on seriously, but which has serious and complicated implications. We aren't neglecting it."

The source did not specify how aid was provided, or name the cities where the aid went. He did however state that those areas are home to a total of 700,000 people and have been under rebel control for between one and five months.

French officials earlier admitted providing communications and other non-lethal equipment to Syrian opposition.

The United States and Turkey had previously said they were considering implementing no-fly zones for Syria to help rebel forces oust the government of Bashar Assad.

With UN estimates putting the number killed in the conflict at 18,000, the Syrian conflict is already the bloodiest Arab Spring uprising.

On Tuesday, the UN chief accused both the Syrian government and the opposition of large-scale human rights violations, stressing the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country.

Government forces and the armed opposition have clearly failed to protect civilians and respect the rules of international humanitarian law," General-Secretary Ban Ki-moon said addressing the UN General Assembly.

"Prisoners on both sides are subject to harsh treatment and, often, torture," he added. "There have been alarming reports of summary executions on both sides."

On Wednesday, Ban slammed the Security Council for failing to reach any solution on Syria, saying that its paralysis over how to end the 18-month conflict was harming the Syrian people and damaging its own credibility.

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