Friends of Syria to meet Saturday in Doha -France

PARIS Wed Jun 19, 2013 5:49pm BST

PARIS (Reuters) - The main nations making up the Friends of Syria will meet on Saturday in Doha to discuss assistance for the Free Syrian Army following recent successes by government forces, a French foreign ministry official said.

The meeting will be attended by foreign ministers from the 11 countries making up the core of the pro-rebel alliance, including France, the United States, Britain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official told reporters the meeting would be an opportunity to take stock of developments at this week's Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland and discuss providing help to the rebels.

"We need to respond to the opposition's need to rebalance power on the ground," the official said.

The conference follows a high-level meeting in Ankara last week among the Friends of Syria during which Free Syrian Army commander Salim Idriss discussed the provision of military aid, including heavy weapons, the official said.

Arms and funding from Gulf Arab states have flowed to the Syrian rebels for months, while European states such as Britain and France have made clear they are considering doing so as well.

U.S. President Barack Obama has authorised sending weapons to Syrian rebels for the first time, an official in his administration said earlier this month.

Syria's 27-month conflict appears to be reaching a turning point after President Bashar al-Assad's forces captured Qusair, in central Homs province near the Lebanese border, earlier this month.

Assad's forces aim to retake Aleppo, where they have been mired in a bloody stalemate with rebels for nearly a year.

"The situation on the ground is urgent following the retaking of Qusair and because of the threat to Aleppo as well as the suburbs of Damas and the southern part of the country," the official said.

(Reporting by John Irish; Writing by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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