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French military advisers meet rebels inside Syria

PARIS - French military advisors 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 US and British agents had also held meetings on Syrian soil with rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

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"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 colours."

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.

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