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US senator backs ammunition for Syrian rebels
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 27, 2013

US Senator Marco Rubio urged the United States on Wednesday to provide ammunition to Syrian rebels and share intelligence, as Washington was said to weigh "non-lethal" aid.

"What the opposition really needs is access to ammunition," the prominent Republican said days after a US congressional visit to Israel, the occupied territories and Jordan.

"We can identify a couple of responsible groups... that we feel have built capacity," Rubio said at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank in the US capital.

"Ammunition is something we can provide which is not weaponry per say, but is essential."

Amid a raging civil war pitting regime loyalists against rebels seeking to oust strongman Bashar al-Assad, Rubio warned that the best-organized and best-armed rebel groups in Syria "are the most radical ones, the most anti-democratic ones, the most anti-American ones."

"The real risk is that when Assad falls -- and he will fall -- the largest, those well-equipped, best organized groups in that conflict, will be the people that quite frankly are against our national interest."

The young but influential first-term senator, a possible 2016 presidential prospect, spoke just hours after President Barack Obama's new Secretary of State John Kerry hinted at greater US support for Syria's opposition.

On the eve of a meeting of the Friends of Syria group in Rome, Kerry said boosting support for the opposition would be a key part of the talks Thursday bringing together foreign powers and the main opposition National Coalition.

The Washington Post reported that the White House was considering a policy shift to supply rebels with "non-lethal" aid, including armored vehicles and perhaps even military training.

The United Nations says at least 70,000 people have died and hundreds of thousands have been uprooted in the two-year conflict.


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