French military advisers have met Syrian rebels inside the war-torn country in recent weeks with a view to identifying recipients for possible weapons supplies, Le Figaro newspaper reported Friday.
The French agents had held face-to-face talks with a Free Syrian Army leader “in the area between Damascus and Lebanon,” the paper quoted an unnamed leader of the Syrian opposition as saying.
The source was also quoted as saying that U.S. and British agents had also held meetings on Syrian soil with rebels fighting President Bashar Assad’s regime.
“The French experts want to know who is doing what,” the opposition leader told the newspaper.
They also wanted to determine the “operational capacity of each group” and their “political colors.”
The newspaper said an unnamed French military source had confirmed the meetings involving French agents.
France was the first Western country to formally recognize Syria’s new opposition coalition.
France has also suggested that Europe should allow the supply of “defensive weapons” to the rebels, once the fighters had been “properly identified.”
Other Western countries have taken a more cautious approach to the rebels, fearing that Islamists are sidelining nationalists within the irregular forces.
Assad using chemical weapons would be ‘outrageous crime’
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday he was not aware of any confirmed reports that Assad was preparing to use chemical weapons but that if he did so it would be an “outrageous crime” with “huge consequences.”
U.S, officials said on Monday that the White House and its allies are weighing military options to secure Syria’s chemical and biological weapons, after U.S. intelligence reports showed the Syrian regime may be readying those weapons and may be desperate enough to use them.
“Recently we have been receiving alarming news that the Syrian government may be preparing to use chemical weapons. We have no confirmed reports on this matter,” Ban said after visiting a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey.
“However, if it is the case, then it will be an outrageous crime in the name of humanity.”