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France welcomes Friends of Syria decision to arm anti-Assad rebels

The Friends of Syria conference in Doha
The Friends of Syria conference in Doha Reuters/Jacquelyn Martin/Pool

French President François Hollande has welcomed the decision of to arm rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad taken by Saturday’s Friends of Syria conference in Qatar. France has provided the Syrian opposition with treatment kits against the effects of the deadly nerve gas sarin, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told the meeting.

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The conference had taken decisions to support those parts of the Syrian opposition that “give all guarantees that they are preparing the transition” to a post-Assad regime, Hollande said.

Hollande arrived in Qatar for an official visit as the conference was wrapping up.

The conference demanded that Iran and the Lebanese Shia-Muslim movement Hezbollah “cease to intervene in the conflict”, Fabius announced afterwards.

"France has decided to reinforce its humanitarian aid and has sent more than 15 tonnes of medicine to the Syrians, including treatments that can protect 1,000 people from chemical weapons,” Fabius said on Saturday. “This says a lot about the damage President Bashar al-Assad has caused to his people"

Earlier this month Fabius said that experts had analysed samples brought back from Syria and concluded that sarin

had been used

several times. Britain has echoed his remarks.

Damascus has repeatedly denied such accusations.

Sarin is a deadly nerve gas that the United States has said the Syrian regime has used against rebel forces.

It was developed by Nazi scientists in 1938 and originally conceived as a pesticide.

Sarin was used by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime to gas thousands of Kurds in the northern town of Halabja in 1988.

United Nations monitors meanwhile say they cannot validate the alleged use of chemical weapons without being allowed to collect samples of their own.

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