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U.S. Congress refuses to approve funds for the supply of arms to Syrian opposition

June 27, 2013, 11:31 UTC+3

U.S. government requires more detailed plans on how to direct the transfer of arms to militants opposing the present government in Damascus

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WASHINGTON, June 27. /ITAR-TASS reporter Dmitry Kirsanov /. The U.S. Congress continues intense debates with the administration over its plans to provide military assistance to the Syrian opposition and has so far refused to approve the budget allocation for such purposes, as reported by Associated Press /AP/ on Wednesday.

Citing unnamed U.S. officials, AP noted that the legislative branch of the U.S. government requires more detailed plans on how to direct the transfer of arms to militants opposing the present government in Damascus, as well as a broader policy on the Syrian track.

As it turned out, the initial proposals on this bill, introduced last week in a closed session to a number of key committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States by Secretary of State John Kerry and the representatives of the Central Intelligence Agency /CIA/ were almost unanimously rejected by lawmakers from both ruling Democratic and opposition Republican parties. At these meetings behind closed doors Kerry has outlined to legislators the strategy in general, and the CIA described the plans of arming and training of the militants chosen for the Syrian opposition. The explanations of the Representatives Office at Langley were met with skepticism and came upon numerous questions from legislators.

According to available data, the consent of the Congress on this issue is needed by the government due to the fact that it’s about plans for the redistribution of funds within the already approved funding programs of U.S. intelligence. However, the same Hoc Committee on Intelligence House of Representatives has unanimously rejected the first plan of the administration concerning the supply of arms to Syrian opposition, stressed the AP.

Reportedly, the new meetings on the subject with the leadership of the U.S. administration and the legislators were held on Wednesday at the White House. Particularly, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns took part since Kerry is currently traveling abroad. The White House has not given any comment about the consultations.

In his turn, member of the ad hoc committee on Intelligence Rep. Jim Langevin /Democrat from Rhode Island / said about the ongoing discussions that he and his colleagues in Congress are trying to "make sure that we follow the right strategy." "We support the efforts of President /Obama/ aimed at increasing pressure on the regime of /Bashar/ al-Assad and to help the rebels, but we continue to ask ‘inconvenient questions’,” said Langevin. As he said, the congressmen and senators are trying to understand, in particular, “who are the rebels in the long term,” is it the “right group” the Obama administration is going to provide military assistance and whether Washington's efforts are supported by allies abroad.

A personal meeting on issues related to Syria was held on Tuesday between Obama and House Speaker John Boehner /Republican from Ohio/, which is in the third-highest post in the U.S. state hierarchy. “It was an important conversation about Syria and possible ways forward. We have to take some decisions in which there is no place for ‘if’, ‘and’ and ‘but’,” Boehner told reporters on Wednesday. He gave no further details of the meeting with Obama.

Meanwhile, congressional Republicans Tom Rooney /from Florida / and Mike McCall /from the Texas / Tuesday night brought to the House of Representatives a bill blocking the transfer of arms to opposition forces or the establishment of a no-fly zone in the country's airspace in case of absence of this sanction from the legislative branch of government. Rooney is a member of the special committee on intelligence, and McCall heads the Committee for National Security.

Speaking at a briefing at the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel confirmed that the possibility of “direct military involvement” in Syrian domestic conflict is not being considered by the Obama administration and that the process of checking the forces of opposition before the transfer of weapons continues. For its part, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of U.S. armed forces, General Martin Dempsey, as before, opposed the idea of ​​a no-fly zone over Syria. However, he pointed out that only about 10 percent of Syrian opposition losses can be explained by the use of military aircrafts against it. Such a zone is “an act of war,” it “will be difficult, because the Syrian air defense system is complete and ‘tight’,” warned the captain.

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