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U.S. To Give Syrian Opposition $60 Million More In Non-Lethal Aid, Kerry Says

The Obama administration will ask Congress for an additional $60 million in aid to help the Syrian opposition council provide basic goods and services in areas under rebel control, Secretary of State John Kerry announced Thursday in Rome.

NPR's Michele Kelemen, who is among the correspondents traveling with Kerry on his first overseas trip since becoming secretary, tells our Newscast Desk that the U.S. "is also offering non-lethal assistance to the free Syrian army — in the form of food rations and medical supplies." She adds that "U.S. officials say that the Syrian opposition laid out many other needs in talks with Kerry and the Obama administration is 'keeping that under review.' "

The BBC starts its report on the news this way:

"The U.S. is to step up its support for the Syrian opposition as it fights to topple President Bashar al-Assad, Secretary of State John Kerry says. Mr. Kerry said the US would provide 'direct support' in the form of medical and food supplies to rebel forces. He also promised an additional $60 million in aid to the opposition to help it deliver basic governance and other services in rebel-controlled areas. ...

" 'President Assad is out of time and must be out of power,' Mr. Kerry said, adding that the Syrian leader could not 'shoot his way out' of the situation."

As the BBC reminds its readers, "the U.N. estimates 70,000 people have died in the Syrian conflict since 2011."

Thursday's announcement was not quite what The Washington Post, CBS News and some other news outlets were predicting a day earlier. As we reported Wednesday, they said the U.S. was also contemplating giving rebels "equipment such as body armor and armored vehicles," though not weapons.

Today, the Post writes that:

"Britain and other nations working in concert with the United States are expected to go further to help the rebel Free Syrian Army by providing battlefield equipment such as armored vehicles, night vision equipment or body armor. The Obama administration is weighing similar assistance, but Kerry announced only the first, small steps."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.