Last updated: 2 May, 2014

Syrian opposition chief to ask US for weapons

The head of the Syrian opposition in exile will visit the United States next Wednesday seeking sophisticated weapons for rebels battling to overthrow the regime, his office said Friday.

The visit comes just weeks after rebels disclosed a pilot programme under which a “Western source” supplied them with 20 US-made TOW anti-tank missiles, with the promise of more if they were used effectively.

“The head of the National Coalition forces of the revolution and the Syrian opposition, Ahmad Jarba, will pay an eight-day visit to Washington at the head of a delegation from May 7,” his office said in a statement.

It said he will be accompanied by the new Chief of Staff of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Brigadier General Abdelilah al-Bashir.

“He will meet US officials to discuss the supply of sophisticated weapons to the FSA to enable it to change the balance on the ground,” the statement said.

Jarba will meet US Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, congressmen, senators and the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties, it said.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Friday that London intends to resume the delivery of non-lethal aid to rebels in Syria.

Such deliveries were suspended in December following advances by Islamist groups.

Hague, in a written statement to parliament, said £1 million ($1.7 million, 1.2 million euros) worth of communications equipment, vehicles, generators and medical kits will be delivered to the FSA “as soon as is practical.”

Syria’s uprising began with peaceful protests in March 2011 but escalated into an insurgency after the regime launched a brutal crackdown on dissent.

Rebels have seized large swathes of the country, but have long asked for greater Western support in the form of weapons that could counter President Bashar al-Assad’s armour and air force.