March 14, 2013 12:54 am

Russia warns UK against arming Syrian rebels

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Russia’s foreign minister delivered a public rebuke to David Cameron during a trip to the UK, warning that the prime minister’s push to arm Syrian rebels would be illegal.

Speaking on Wednesday after meeting William Hague, Britain’s foreign secretary, and Philip Hammond, defence secretary, Sergei Lavrov warned against arming Syria’s opposition forces.

Mr Lavrov said: “I think international law provides for the fact it’s not possible, and I think that arming the opposition is a breach of international law.”

His comments came a day after the prime minister told a committee of MPs that Britain could provide weapons to rebel troops even without agreement from its European partners.

European leaders will meet in May to discuss the embargo on providing weapons, with Britain and France facing German resistance to attempts to have it relaxed.

Even if they agree a change to the sanctions, any action is likely to be met with strong resistance from Russia, which sold weapons to Syria.

But the UK’s push to give further assistance to the rebels has been undermined by a report from Amnesty International published on Thursday.

The report warns: “Armed opposition groups in the country are increasingly resorting to hostage taking, and to the torture and summary killing of soldiers, pro-government militias and civilians they’ve captured or abducted.”

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