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'Friends Of Syria' Ministers Meet In Qatar

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the Friends of Syria" meeting in the Qatari capital, Doha, on June 22.
Foreign ministers of the Friends of Syria group of countries have held talks on boosting their assistance to rebels fighting against the regime in Damascus.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, whose country hosted the meeting, said supplying the rebels with weapons was the only way to resolve the conflict.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in Doha along with the foreign ministers of Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates on June 22.

Last week, the United States said it had evidence that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons and that Washington was now ready to start providing weapons to the rebels.

"The framework for that political solution is there. It already exists. And it has been endorsed by the United Nations, by the League of Arab States, by the European community, by the United States, others -- have all come together and said -- the best solution, the only real solution to the problem of Syria is a political solution. We don't believe there is a military solution," Kerry said in Doha.

"We have decided that we have no choice in order to try to get to this negotiation but to provide greater assistance of one kind or another, each nation making its own decision as to what it is comfortable doing but all of them committing to do more to be able to help the Syrian opposition."

The European Union has lifted its embargo on supplying weapons to the opposition.

Opposition fighters have recently suffered a series of setbacks in their battle against the government, which is backed by allies Russia, Iran, and the Lebanese Shi'ite militia Hizballah.

On June 22, activists say government troops intensified a military offensive against rebel-controlled areas in northern and eastern Damascus.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human rights said the district of Qaboun was coming under intense shelling by regime forces.

The observatory, which relies on a network of activists across Syria, said overnight mortar fire killed three children in Qaboun.

Activists said government forces deployed tanks outside the neighborhood.

Fighting also reportedly took place in Al-Hajar al-Aswad in southern Damascus and Jubar in the east.

Based on reporting by AFP, Reuters, dpa, and AP