Egypt’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Amr has warned that arming rebel fighters in Syria would lead to a civil war, his ministry said on Wednesday.
Arming the ill-equipped rebels, mainly Syrian army defectors, would “lead to an escalation in the military conflict and spark a civil war in Syria,” Amr said, according to a statement issued by his ministry.
Some Arab countries, such as Qatar and regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia, have spoken in favor of arming the rebels.
The opposition Syrian National Council has said it wants to organize arms deliveries to the rebels and announced a “military bureau” to coordinate and serve as a conduit for weapons from abroad.
But the United States last month warned that Sunni militant group al-Qaeda was seeking to gain advantage of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, who hails from Syria’s minority Alawite community, a branch of Shiite Islam.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said that applying political pressure to Assad to leave office and to cease the military crackdown on dissent was a better option than sending in weapons.
“Now is not the time to further militarize the situation in Syria,” according to AFP, he said.
Similar concerns were raised initially in the West when the Libyan conflict against Muammar Qaddafi erupted last year, but several countries, including Arab nations, later supplied arms to the rebels there backed by air support from NATO.
But U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that the situation in Syria is far more complex than it was in Libya.
In Libya, the United States “had the full cooperation of the region, Arab states, and we knew that we could execute very effectively in a relatively short period of time. This is a much more complicated situation,” Obama said.
The United Nations says more than 7,500 people have been killed since anti-regime protests which gave way to an armed revolt erupted in Syria in mid-March 2011.