BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union said it amended sanctions on Syria on Thursday to permit the supply of armored vehicles, non-lethal military equipment and technical aid to the Syrian opposition, provided they were intended to protect civilians.
The measure, adopted by EU governments, extends EU sanctions on Syria until June 1 and responds to pressure from Britain and others to ease the EU arms embargo to help opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.
The amended sanctions, approved a day before existing sanctions expire, follow weeks of tough negotiations between EU states that backed easing the arms embargo to help rebels and other EU countries worried that allowing more weapons into Syria could fuel violence.
The new sanctions exempt from the EU arms embargo "non-lethal military equipment or ... equipment which might be used for internal repression" intended for the Syrian National Coalition, Syria's political opposition, provided they are for the protection of civilians.
Also exempted from the arms embargo are "non-combat vehicles ... fitted with materials to provide ballistic protection", intended for the Syrian National Coalition and for the protection of civilians, the text of the amendment said.
The new sanctions also permit the provision of technical assistance and unspecified "other services" for the Syrian National Coalition for the protection of civilians.
Reporting by Adrian Croft; editing by Ethan Bilby and Michael Roddy