The United States will not oppose moves by some European nations to arm Syrian rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad, top U.S. Diplomat John Kerry said Monday.
“President Obama has made it clear that the United States does not stand in the way of other countries that have made a decision to provide arms, whether it's France or Britain or others,” Kerry told reporters.
EU leaders are due to meet this week to discuss easing an EU arms embargo, amid statements from Paris and London that it is time to start arming the Syrian opposition.
Obama “believes we need to change President Assad's calculation,” Kerry said, after talks with his Australian counterpart Bob Carr.
Kerry reiterated that Obama “is evaluating and will continue to evaluate any additional options available in order to make that happen.”
The United States has provided non-lethal and humanitarian aid to the Syrian opposition but refused to supply arms, fearful of pouring more weapons into a complex conflict now into its third year which has claimed some 70,000 lives.
Meanwhile, Syrian opposition coalition members on Tuesday elected former businessman Ghassan Hitto (photo) as provisional Prime Minister in a meeting in Istanbul.
Hitto, who will now be in charge of forming a government to fill a power vacuum in Syria, won 35 out of 48 votes, according to comments made by coalition members after the vote.
The vote came after some 14 hours of closed-door consultations among 70-odd Coalition members, with some members describing Hitto as a consensus candidate pleasing both the opposition’s Islamist and liberal factions.
But other Coalition members withdrew from the consultations before the vote could take place, reflecting divisions within Syria’s opposition.
Until last year, Hitto was a Senior Executive at a technology communications firm in Texas, with a role in local civic life, but largely focused on his job of more than a decade.
His resume touts 25 years of experience with high-tech and telecommunications companies, including 16 years in executive management roles.
But in November he abruptly quit his job “to join the ranks of the Syrian revolution.”
Hitto had already become involved in humanitarian aid work, establishing the Shaam Relief Foundation in 2011, and helped organize fundraisers including a “Walk for Children of Syria Day.”
A devout Muslim, he has been involved for more than a decade with the running of the Brighter Horizons Academy, a Texas school billed as “an educational institution conducive to an Islamic learning environment.”
Hitto founded the Coalition of Free Syria activist group in 2011, and become a national board member of the Syrian American Council the following year.
Source: AFP; Al Arabiya