French direct aid a dubious break for Syria rebels

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PARIS — France’s decision to send direct aid to Syria’s opposition represents a break for the rebels after months of Western hesitation over fears that costly equipment intended for Syria’s opposition could get lost or fall into the wrong hands.

France, Syria’s one-time colonial ruler, began sending the aid without intermediaries last week to three regions of Syria where the regime of President Bashar Assad has lost control, in the first such move by a Western power, a diplomat said Wednesday.

But aid remains limited, primarily repairing bakeries, water systems and schools. And while apparently more than the indirect assistance extended by other Western countries, it’s still far from the magnitude needed to make a difference, Syrian opposition activists said.

Britain has offered a total of $10 million in non-lethal aid to Syria’s opposition. Foreign Secretary William Hague says the supplies are for opposition activists — not fighters. U.S. and French officials have made similar comments about the destination of their aid.

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