Officials: Arms shipments rise to Syrian rebels

AMMAN, Jordan — Mideast powers opposed to President Bashar Assad have dramatically stepped up weapons supplies to Syrian rebels in coordination with the United States in preparation for a push on the capital of Damascus, officials and Western military experts said Wednesday.

A carefully prepared covert operation — involving Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, with the United States and other Western governments consulting — is arming rebels, and all parties hold veto power over where the shipments are directed, said a senior Arab official whose government is participating, the Associated Press reported. His account was corroborated by a diplomat and two military experts.

The Arab official said the number of arms airlifts has doubled in the past four weeks. He did not provide exact figures on the flights or the size of the cargo.

Jordan opened up as a new route for the weapons late last year, amid U.S. worries that arms from Turkey were going to Islamic militants, all four told the Associated Press in separate interviews. Jordan denies helping funnel weapons to the rebels.

Assad asks leaders for help

President Bashar Assad of Syria begged a five-nation group of emerging powers Wednesday to help halt the Syrian conflict, a day after the Arab League moved to further isolate Assad by ceremoniously filling his government's vacant seat with the opposition coalition that has sworn to topple him. In a letter to the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — the so-called BRICS group of developing nations, which convened a summit in Durban, South Africa — Assad framed his request as a plea for help in a fight of good against evil.

New York Times

Officials: Arms shipments rise to Syrian rebels 03/27/13 [Last modified: Thursday, March 28, 2013 12:02am]

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