BRUSSELS (AP) — The chief of staff of the rebel army in Syria came to Brussels on Wednesday to plead with the international community to supply it with arms and ammunition so it can resist attacks by the regime of Syria’s President Bashar Assad.
Gen. Salim Idris, head of the rebel’s Supreme Military Council, said anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles are urgently needed to protect the civilian population.
Syria’s uprising began in March 2011 with protests against Assad’s authoritarian rule. When the government cracked down on demonstrators, the opposition took up arms and the conflict turned into a full-blown civil war. The United Nations estimates that more than 70,000 people have been killed.
Idris complained that Russia and Iran are helping the Assad regime, while the West condemns Assad but does not supply the rebels with weapons.
“When we don’t have enough weapons, when we don’t have enough ammunition, the regime still considers itself powerful, and it continues killing,” he told the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, a political grouping in the European Parliament.
“If we have the arms and munitions we need, we can get rid of the regime within a month,” Idris said. “We’re making real progress. A great deal of the east of the country has been liberated. ”
The European Union has a blanket arms embargo in place against Syria. Britain has pressed for the embargo to be loosened to allow more aid to the rebels. But other EU countries contend that more arms is the last thing Syria needs.
The UN refugee agency said Wednesday that the number of Syrians who have fled their war-ravaged country and are seeking assistance now exceeds 1 million.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.