Middle East

US to bolster support for Syrian rebels

White House confirms plans to boost aid to opposition after US daily says supply of military equipment being considered.
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2013 04:40

The US will increase aid to the Syrian opposition in an effort to speed a political transition in Syria, according to the White House spokesman.

The remarks by Jay Carney came after the Washington Post newspaper reported on Wednesday that the White House was considering a shift in policy towards the nearly two-year-long conflict in Syria, such as sending the rebels body armour and armed vehicles and, possibly, providing military training.

"We are constantly reviewing the nature of the assistance we provide to both the Syrian people, in form of humanitarian assistance, and to the Syrian opposition in the form of non-lethal assistance," Carney said.

The US has sided with the Syrian opposition in seeking the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power.

"We will continue to provide assistance to the Syrian people, to the Syrian opposition, we will continue to increase our assistance in the effort to bring about a post-Assad Syria," Carney said.

Call for dialogue 

Meanwhile, Syrian ambassador to the UN Bashar al Jaafari urged Friends of Syria states to convince Syrian opposition to sit for an unconditional national dialogue.

Syria's ambassador to the UN talks to Al Jazeera

“Syria needs from those who call for this meeting to be held in Marrakech or Rome or Istanbul to convince those who are supporting the armed groups to sit at the table of negotiations and dialogue," Ja’afari told Al Jazeera's Diplomatic Editor James Bays.

"If they are really the Friends of Syria they should care for all the Syrian people not only part of the Syrian people, those who are refusing categorically to sit at the table of the national dialogue and calling for further destruction of the Syrian state,” he added.

In a reply to Al Jazeera’s question on whether President Bashar al-Assad would be prepared to consider standing down to avoid further destruction, Jaafari said that dialogue could take place without preconditions.

“This is very naive my friend. This is very naive what you are saying. When you sit at the table of dialogue you don't put preconditions. You sit and you say whatever you want at the table of national dialogue. It's called national dialogue. It's not called national pre conditional dialogue.”

'Dangling in the wind'

US Secretary of State John Kerry said in London on Monday that President Barack Obama was evaluating more steps to "fulfil our obligation to innocent people".

He did not give details or say whether the US was reconsidering arming the rebels.

"We are determined that the Syrian oppositions is not going to be dangling in the wind," he said.

Kerry also said the continued violence in Syria, which the UN estimates has killed 70,000 people, represented further evidence that it was time for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to relinquish his post.

At the same time, William Hague, UK foreign secretary, called for support for Syria's opposition to be increased significantly in order to help bring the protracted conflict to an end.

The US has provided millions of dollars for food, medical care and clothing for Syrians and refugees, but has not sent aid directly to the rebels or the political opposition.

Kerry, who was in Paris meeting President Francois Hollande on Wednesday, is due to meet Syrian opposition leaders at a Friends of Syria conference in Rome on Thursday.


Al Jazeera And Agencies
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