UK & World News

  • 26 June 2014, 22:21

Obama Seeks $500m To Support Syria's Rebels

President Barack Obama is seeking $500m from US lawmakers to train and equip "vetted" Syrian rebels, the White House says.

Mr Obama has been under pressure from some lawmakers to bolster assistance to moderate Syrian insurgents. 

If approved, the budget request would mark the first open US military involvement in the Syrian conflict, which began three years ago.

There is already a covert CIA training programme for the rebels, US officials have previously confirmed. 

The $500m is part of a broader $66bn overseas operations request sent by the administration to Congress on Thursday.

White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in an emailed statement the money would go towards "appropriately vetted elements" of the opposition.

"These funds would help defend the Syrian people," she wrote, "stabilize areas under opposition control, facilitate the provision of essential services, counter terrorist threats, and promote conditions for a negotiated settlement." 

It is not clear what type of military equipment would be included under the request.

US officials last year said they had begun shipping small-arms ammunition, as well as non-lethal assistance, to the rebels.

But the administration balked at opposition requests for portable anti-aircraft missiles.

A prime concern for the White House has been that such weaponry could wind up in the hands of jihadists.

Syria's moderate rebels are waging a war on two fronts - against the forces of President Bashar al- ssad and Islamist militants.

The Obama administration has renewed its focus on Syria's conflict in recent weeks as it fans an al Qaeda-inspired insurgency in neighbouring Iraq.

 

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