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France floats idea of arming rebels

PARIS — France raised the possibility Thursday of sending “defensive weapons” to Syria’s rebels, but Russia warned that such a move would violate international law.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said his country will ask the European Union to consider lifting the Syrian arms embargo, which prevents weapons from being sent to either side.

“We must not militarize the conflict but it’s obviously unacceptable that there are liberated zones and they’re bombed” by President Bashar Assad’s regime, Mr. Fabius said in an interview with RTL radio. “We have to find a good balance.”

The civil war in Syria, which began as an uprising against Mr. Assad’s regime, has killed more than 36,000 Syrians since March 2011, according to anti-government activists.

The fighting and flood of refugees seeking safety also have spilled over into several of Syria’s neighbors, including Israel, Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. The fighting has descended into a bloody stalemate, and rebels say they desperately need weapons to turn the tide.

United Kingdom

Police arrest second suspect in kidnapping

LONDON — British police said Thursday a second man has been charged with kidnapping two Western journalists in Syria.

Jubayer Chowdhury, 24, was arrested by counterterrorism officers at London’s Heathrow Airport on Monday after arriving on a flight from Bahrain. Scotland Yard said he has been charged in connection with their investigation into alleged terrorist activity in Syria.

Mr. Chowdhury is the second person charged in relation to the abduction of two photographers, Briton John Cantlie and his Dutch colleague Jeroen Oerlemans, between July 17 and 26 in Syria. Shajul Islam, a 26-year-old trainee doctor, also has been charged over the abduction.

Mr. Oerlemans was shot twice during a failed attempt to escape from his captors. Mr. Cantlie, who had worked for the Sunday Times newspaper, has said that none of his captors were Syrians and that several spoke with British accents.

The kidnapping raised concerns that British Muslims might be slipping into Syria to join extremists. The photographers said after their weeklong ordeal that some of their captors spoke with British accents.

Police say Mr. Chowdhury will appear in custody at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Friday.

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