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Obama, Erdogan agree on 'non-lethal' aid for Syrian rebels

US, Turkish leaders agree on need to supply Syrian insurgency with 'non-lethal' aid in advance of 1 April 'Friends of Syria' meeting in Turkey

AFP , Sunday 25 Mar 2012
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US President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday agreed on the need to send "non-lethal" aid to Syrian rebels, including communications equipment, a US official said.

The two leaders agreed that a "Friends of Syria" group meeting on 1 April should seek to provide such aid and also medical supplies, as they met in South Korea on the eve of a nuclear security summit, said US Deputy National Security adviser Ben Rhodes.

Washington has said several times that it is looking at providing non-lethal aid to Syrian rebels battling the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad, whom the United States says should step down.

The rebels are badly outgunned by Syria's armed forces but the White House has said that it does not favour arming the rebels, arguing that further "militarising" the conflict would worsen civilian bloodshed.

Washington has also ruled out unilateral military action in Syria, and says there is no coalition favouring multilateral action like that which ousted Libya's Muamer Gadaffi last year. In the talks with Erdogan, Obama said the United States and Turkey agreed that "there should be a process" of transition to a "legitimate government" in Syria.

Erdogan noted that 17,000 refugees had fled to Turkey from Syria and said "we cannot be spectators" to the humanitarian crisis sparked by the crackdown on rebel groups that has killed more than 9,000 people, according to monitors.

The two leaders also discussed Iran, with Obama reiterating a warning he made earlier this month that the "window" for diplomacy to end a showdown with the Islamic republic over its nuclear programme was closing.

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