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Middle East

Syria civil war: Friends of Syria agree to supply 'all the necessary material' to rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad

Members also call for Hezbollah and other foreign fighters to pull out

A group of 11 nations, including the UK, has promised to supply Syria's anti-government fighters with "all the necessary material and equipment” for their struggle in the country's bloody civil war.

The members of the Friends of Syria group, which met in Doha, Qatar, also demanded that foreign fighters, from Lebanon's Hezbollah militia and others from Iran and Iraq, leave the fighting, and that they be prevented from crossing the border into the country.

The UK has not committed to supply arms to the opposition but according to the communique, each nation will “act in its own way” to support the rebels.

All military support will be channeled through the Syrian Supreme Military Council, the foreign ministers agreed, also pledging to pursue “all appropriate avenues” at the United Nations to “support and protect the Syrian people”.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “I think the main things in common and agreed are that we're all concerned about that humanitarian situation.

“The United Kingdom ... is helping to lead the way with another £175 million contribution to the humanitarian situation.

“We have been talking about how we can help the opposition, how we can help save lives. Different countries will have different ways of doing that and I've made clear before how the United Kingdom is approaching that at the moment."

He echoed the words of US Secretary of State John Kerry at the meeting that “we're all aiming to achieve a political solution, a political settlement, in Syria but that political settlement will not come about if the opposition can be destroyed by force”.

The talks came as Syrian government forces stepped up their attack against rebel strongholds north of the capital Damascus today, while opposition fighters launched their own offensive in the country's largest city Aleppo.

Syria's civil war, now in its third year, has killed 90,000 according to the UN and displaced more than one million. It is fought between forces loyal to President Assad and rebels, mostly from the disparate Free Syrian Army.

The presence of Hezbollah, a close ally of both Assad and Iran, in the fighting was laid bare during the battle for Qusayr on the Lebanese border. The strategically important town was taken by pro-regime forces after fierce fighting, tipping the balance of the war in Assad's favour.

Ministers from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Germany, France, and Italy also attended the summit.

The ministers repeated their call for the establishment of a transitional governing body to which full executive powers would be transferred, which excluded “the central figures and associates whose hands are stained with blood”.

The communique said: “In this context, Bashar Assad has no role in the transitional governing body or thereafter.”

The document also called for UN inspectors to be granted full access to Syria to conduct an investigation into reported use of chemical weapons by Assad's forces.