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Saturday 24.02.2018 | Name days: Diāna, Dina, Dins

US rethinks arming Syria rebels

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Chuck Hagel

Chuck Hagel

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has acknowledged his government is no longer ruling out arming Syrian rebels.

It is the first time a senior US official has said openly that the US is reconsidering its opposition to supplying weapons to rebel forces, BBC reported.

President Barack Obama – who rejected such a proposal last year – said the US was now looking at “all options”.

Meanwhile, allegations are emerging that Syrian forces carried out summary executions near the city of Banias. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said it was trying to verify reports that troops had killed at least 50 people, including women and children, in the north-western village of al-Bayda.

As the fighting drags on in Syria, the debate about what the US should do has intensified in Washington.

Speaking in Washington, Mr Hagel confirmed the US was reconsidering its opposition to providing weapons to rebels, but stressed that no decision had been made yet.

Mr Hagel made the comments at a joint news conference with British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond.

Mr Hammond said the UK had so far been unable to provide weapons because of an EU ban on arming the rebels. But “we will look at the situation when that ban expires in a few weeks’ time,” he added.

US allies such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia are already providing weapons to various groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

The pressure to act has intensified in recent days after emerging evidence that Syria has used chemical weapons such as the nerve gas sarin.

President Obama last week promised a “vigorous investigation” into the issue, warning that it would be a “game changer” for US policy if the reports were to be proved true.

But Mr Hagel and his British counterpart indicated that existing evidence of alleged chemical weapon was not sufficient to trigger an international response. Mr Hammond said the public still remembered that claims of weapons of mass destruction, which led to the Iraq invasion in 2003, turned out to be incorrect.

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