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Europe to debate lifting Syria’s arms embargo

LONDON — European nations are discussing whether to overturn an arms embargo on Syria and are seeking to press Arab countries and the United States for a new impetus to end the deadly 20-month conflict, Britain’s foreign policy chief said Friday.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague met in London with Mouaz al-Khatib, head of the new Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, but said the UK would not yet join France in officially recognizing the opposition group as the representative of Syria’s people.

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Officials from the United States, France, Germany, Qatar, Turkey, and other nations were attending meetings in London with the new opposition group, aimed at determining how better to support opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad and to stress the need for the opposition fighters to respect human rights.

‘‘We cannot stand still, we cannot just say we will leave things as they are in Syria, because it is a gravely deteriorating situation,’’ Hague told reporters. ‘‘How we respond has to be well judged, well thought through.’’

Though Britain has insisted so far that it will not supply weapons to Syria’s rebels, Hague confirmed that its National Security Council had discussed whether a European Union arms embargo could be lifted.

The issue is likely to be discussed at a meeting of European foreign ministers on Monday.

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