US helps coordinates arms for Syria rebels: report
WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
An image released by the Syrian opposition's Shaam News Network, shows Free Syrian Army militants posing by an armored vehicle . AFPSyria's rebels have seen an influx of arms including anti-tank weaponry for their fight against President Bashar al-Assad regime, in an effort coordinated with the help of the United States, a report said today.
Officials in President Barack Obama's administration insist it is not directly supplying the weapons or providing funding, with Gulf states paying for the new arms, the Washington Post said, citing US and foreign officials.
But Washington has stepped up links with the rebels and regional militaries allying with them, playing a role in the rebel's foreign support network, the report said.
"We are increasing our nonlethal assistance to the Syrian opposition, and we continue to coordinate our efforts with friends and allies in the region and beyond in order to have the biggest impact on what we are collectively doing," a senior State Department official told the Post on condition of anonymity.
The US administration's move to increase contact with the rebels, and boosting information sharing with Gulf states who back them, is a shift in policy that up until now has resisted overt support for the armed groups battling Assad forces, the Post said.
US officials had Tuesday said Washington deplored escalating violence in Syria, after a bomb exploded in front of a UN convoy, and reports surfaced of a new massacre by government forces.
Syria's anti-regime revolt entered its 15th month of relentless violence that has killed more than 12,000 people and growing fears that a UN-backed peace plan will fail.
The United States has vowed to increase pressure on Assad to step down and the issue will be raised at the upcoming NATO meeting in Chicago, with US officials urging Damascus to implement a plan pushed by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan seeking a resolution to the crisis.