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Arm the rebels, Syrian opposition pleads

Wednesday 7 May 2014
Ahmad Jarba, head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, speaks during a news conference about chemical weapons in New York, September 27, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)
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The leader of the Syrian opposition Ahmad Jarba on Wednesday called on the US to give his forces the weapons necessary to defeat the regime's well-armed military.

Opposition forces need "efficient weapons to face these attacks including air raids, so we can change the balance of power on the ground," Jarba told a US think-tank at the start of his first official visit to Washington. "This would allow for a political solution," he insisted.

Jarba, head of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), is to hold high-level talks this week with Secretary of State John Kerry and national security chief Susan Rice.

He is accompanied on his eight-day trip by the new chief of staff of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Brigadier General Abdelilah al-Bashir.

But Jarba stressed that Syrians were not calling on the United States or the West "to send their sons to Syria."

"We do not want Americans to die in Syria," he insisted.

But he stressed: "We do have a problem with the air forces, the air raids and the barrel bombs. This is making our lives a nightmare, so we want weapons that would neutralize" the air forces.

"We do need effective and efficient weapons... and we commit to keep them in the right hands."

US officials have refused to be drawn on the type of non-lethal aid or weapons being supplied by Washington, apart from detailing such things as night-vision goggles and communications equipment.

A senior US administration official this week acknowledged there was "an asymmetry militarily" between the opposition rebels and the Assad regime, and insisted Washington was looking at ways to change the balance of power on the ground.

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