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Syria rebels seek arms, no-fly zone to avert crisis

Syrian rebels urged friendly world powers on Thursday to provide them with heavier weapons and to impose a no-fly zone over parts of the country they control to avert a humanitarian disaster.

On the ground, troops and rebels battled in several districts and suburbs of Damascus, and the army shelled insurgent positions using heavy artillery and mortars, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Western and Arab powers from the so-called Friends of Syria group will meet in Doha on Saturday, and Free Syrian Army spokesman Louay Meqdad said ‘the regime could use Scud missiles with unconventional warheads to shell liberated areas. So we need a safe haven.’

‘It is necessary to establish secure areas and impose no-fly zones in the south or north,’ he told the media in Dubai.

Calling for anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, he said that ‘if they do not provide us with arms to protect civilian areas, a humanitarian disaster will occur because regime troops are committing massacres in the areas they are recapturing’.

Meqdad said ‘foreign militias, including (the Lebanese Shiite movement) Hezbollah and Abulfadhl al-Abbas brigades (made up mainly of Iraqi Shiites) do not respect any international conventions’.
Foreign ministers from Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States are to discuss aid for the rebels, including military help, a French diplomat said on Wednesday.

Western powers have so far refused to arm rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s troops - backed by Shiite militias from neighbouring countries - out of fear they could fall into the hands of radical Islamists. But Meqdad said ‘we are committed to ensuring that these weapons do not fall into the hands of unorganised or extremist groups’.
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