Washington mulls 'non-lethal' aid to Syrian rebels

Battles rage on

WASHINGTON - The White House is mulling a major shift in policy on war-torn Syria and could supply rebels with "non-lethal" aid such as body armor, armored vehicles and perhaps even military training, according to the Washington Post.
Citing unidentified US and European officials, the newspaper also reported Tuesday that Washington could send humanitarian aid directly to the country's opposition political coalition.
The Post, while noting that US officials remain opposed to providing arms to the rebels, said US Secretary of State John Kerry was discussing yet to be finalized elements of the "proposed policy" in meetings with allies in Europe and the Middle East this week and next while on his first foreign trip since taking office.
CNN published a similar story on its website, citing a source as saying that the United States was "looking to remove restrictions on 'dual-use' equipment" and, according to another source, that the administration was moving toward providing humanitarian aid directly to the Syrian Opposition Coalition.
Rebels have been fighting the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad since an uprising against his rule erupted in March 2011. The United Nations says the conflict has claimed 70,000 lives.
Syria's opposition has been calling for the international community to do more.
After initially threatening to boycott an international conference in Rome on Thursday, Syrian National Coalition chief Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib said his group would attend after Kerry and British Foreign Secretary William Hague "promised specific aid to alleviate the suffering of our people".
The Post also reported that, according to several European officials, finalization of a new provision that allows European Union members to "provide greater non-lethal support and technical assistance for the protection of civilians" would be announced Thursday.