U.S. no longer ruling out arming Syrian rebels

U.S. no longer ruling out arming Syrian rebels

PanARMENIAN.Net - U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has acknowledged his government is no longer ruling out arming Syrian rebels, BBC New reports.

It is the first time a senior U.S. official has said openly that his country is reconsidering its opposition to supplying weapons to rebel forces.

President Barack Obama - who rejected such a proposal last year - said the U.S. 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.

The activist group monitors human rights violations on both sides of the conflict via a network of contacts across Syria.

Heavy fighting erupted on Thursday, may 2 morning between government forces and rebels near the village. As the fighting drags on in Syria, the debate about what the U.S. should do has intensified in Washington.

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

"Arming the rebels - that's an option," he told reporters. "You look at and rethink all options. It doesn't mean you do or you will. These are options that must be considered with the international community: what is possible, what can help accomplish [our] objectives."

Hagel made the comments at a joint news conference with British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond, who 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.

Later on Thursday, President Obama said during a visit to Mexico that the U.S. was "continually evaluating the situation on the ground... to find the best way to move a political transition".

"As we've seen evidence of further bloodshed, potential use of chemical weapons inside of Syria, what I've said is that we're going to look at all options," Obama added.

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

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