Friday 23 February 2018

Syrian rebel chief pleads for weapons

Zeina Karam Beirut

The chief of Syrian rebel forces said yesterday that his fighters are in "desperate" need of weapons and ammunition rather than the food supplies and bandages that the US now plans to provide.

The Obama administration announced it was giving an additional $60m (€46m) in assistance to the country's political opposition and said that it would, for the first time, provide non-lethal aid directly to rebels battling to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The move was announced by US Secretary of State John Kerry at an international conference on Syria in Rome, and several European nations are expected in the coming days to take similar steps in working with the military wing of the opposition in order to ramp up pressure on Mr Assad to step down and pave the way for a democratic transition.

A number of Syrian opposition figures and fighters on the ground, however, expressed disappointment with the limited assistance.

General Salim Idris, chief of staff of the Syrian opposition's Supreme Military Council, said the modest package of aid to rebels – consisting of an undetermined amount of food rations and medical supplies – would not help them win against Mr Assad's forces who have superior air power.

"We don't want food and drink and we don't want bandages. When we're wounded, we want to die. The only thing we want is weapons," he told reporters.

"We need anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to stop Bashar Assad's criminal, murderous regime from annihilating the Syrian people," he said.

Irish Independent

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