Rebels must clear radical zones: Paris

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French President Francois Hollande urged rebels in Syria yesterday to “retake” zones that have fallen into the hands of extremist Islamist groups.

“The opposition must retake control of these areas and push these groups out,” Hollande told reporters in Doha. If extremist groups “benefit from the chaos in future, (Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad will seize this as an excuse to continue his massacres.” His remarks came after world powers supporting Syria’s rebels decided on June 22 to provide them with urgent military aid so they can counter regime attacks and “protect the Syrian people.” A final communiqué said “each country in its own way” would provide “urgently all the necessary materiel and equipment” so that the rebels could “counter brutal attacks by the regime and its allies and protect the Syrian people.”

Hollande affirmed that France is willing to help the Syrian opposition but under certain conditions. “We cannot provide these arms to groups that would use them against the interests of a democratic Syria or against us,” he said.

‘Common approach’ with Qatar

Hollande also said that Qatar and France share a “common approach” on Syria, in remarks made after he met the Gulf state’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. This approach is reflected in “helping the opposition defend themselves and gain positions on ground” while working towards achieving a “political solution”, he said. “We are aware that the balance of power will decide the direction and pace of this solution.”

 

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