US weighs ‘non-lethal’ aid to Syrian rebels
WASHINGTON - Agence France-PresseThe United States is looking at delivering non-lethal aid to Syria’s rebels, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said March 7, hinting at the first direct U.S. assistance to forces seeking President Bashar al-Assad’s downfall.
While the U.S. is outraged at the killing of civilians it does not believe in taking “unilateral” military action and favors pursuing diplomacy to force al-Assad to step down, Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee. Asked by Senator Richard Blumenthal if the U.S. was ready to deliver communications equipment to Syrian rebels, Panetta said: “I’d prefer to discuss that in a closed session but I can tell you that we’re considering an array of non-lethal assistance.” His answer marked the first time U.S. had suggested it was ready to provide direct assistance to Syria’s rebels. The Pentagon chief’s comments came as Russia’s U.N. envoy on March 7 accused Libya of helping to train Syrian rebels to carry out attacks on Damascus government targets. China’s envoy to Syria told al-Assad’s government and other parties to stop the violence and help the U.N.