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US defends decision not to arm Syrian rebels

US defends decision not to arm Syrian rebels

Washington: The White House has defended the decision of US President Barack Obama overruling the recommendations of his cabinet, to provide arms to the Syrian rebels, arguing that he did not want any weapons to fall into wrong hands.

"As the President and his national security team have looked at these issues, we have had to be very careful," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, told reporters yesterday.

"We don't want any weapons to fall into the wrong hands and potentially further endanger the Syrian people, our ally, Israel, or the United States. We also need to make sure that any support we are providing actually makes a difference in pressuring Assad," Carney said in response to a question.

A day earlier, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta had told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing that he had favoured arming the Syrian rebels, which was turned down by Obama.

"I think it's widely viewed that a lack of weapons is not the problem in Syria right now. Keep in mind that there is no shortage of weapons in Syria. That's why we've focused our efforts on helping the opposition to become stronger, more cohesive, and more organised," Carney argued.

"Now, as a general principle, this is not the kind of thing around which there is one discussion. We almost constantly or continually review what we're doing with regards to Syria and that conversation continues," he said.

"But it is, of course, of paramount interest on this matter in particular that we not create a situation where weapons provided by the United States end up in the wrong hands and we thereby accidentally, create more danger for the United States, for the Syrian people, or for Israel," Carney explained defending the decision of the president.

Republican Senator John McCain urged the president to heed the advice of his cabinet members in this regard.

"The crisis in Syria represents a graphic failure of American leadership. I urge the president to heed the advice of his former and current national security leaders and immediately take the necessary steps, along with our friends and allies, that could hasten the end of the conflict in Syria," McCain said in a statement.


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