The US is rethinking arming Syrian opposition fighters, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said. Speaking at a Pentagon news conference, he stressed the Obama administration is considering a range of options.
Asked directly if the administration was reconsidering its opposition to that option, Hagel said “yes”. “Arming the rebels — that’s an option,” he said. “We must continue to look at options.”
“These are options that must be considered with partners, with the international community: What is possible, what can help accomplish these objectives,” Hagel said.
At the same time, he stressed that he has not personally decided whether it would be wise to provide weapons to the rebels.
The statement by Hagel coincided with negotiations between the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and UN chief Ban Ki-moon on “possible diplomatic moves to end” the Syria conflict.
While diplomats declined to comment on the meeting with the secretary-general, Reuters reports that a dispute between Russia and the United States over Syria has left the council paralyzed.
Russia insists on an investigation into reports of the use of chemical weapons near Aleppo, Syria, in March, but said that the UN’s demand to check all facilities in the country “is incorrect” and “undermines the goal of an immediate investigation” according to Lavrov.
“We insist on satisfying the specific request from the government of Syria for an investigation into this incident,” Lavrov told a news conference in Budapest. “[It] is very reminiscent of the resolutions that the UN Security Council was passing on Iraq.”
President Obama has repeatedly called the use of chemical weapons in Syria a “red line” that could prompt US action if crossed.
Meanwhile, almost simultaneously reports emerged about an alleged massacre by “state forces and militants loyal to President Assad” who stormed Syria’s coastal village of Baida, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The watchdog claimed that at least 50 people were killed “including women and children” and suggested the final toll may exceed 100 dead. Many of those killed were executed by gunfire or knives, and other bodies were found burned, the Observatory alleged on Thursday.
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