Washington: The US on Thursday said it is only providing humanitarian aid and non-lethal assistance to the Syrian opposition, a day after a media report claimed that CIA officers were distributing assault rifles, anti-tank rocket launchers and other ammunition to rebels.
"We do not, as a matter of policy, provide lethal aid to the opposition," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.
"We provide humanitarian aid to the Syrian people. We provide non-lethal assistance to the opposition, and we continue to work with the opposition, in concert with our international partners, to help them organise themselves, to help them develop greater capacities," he said.
His remarks came after the New York Times this week reported that for weeks now, CIA officers based in southeast Turkey have supervised the flow of illegal arms to numerous opposition factions ready to fight the Syrian regime.
In response to a question, Carney said it is up to the Syrian people to decide the fate of President Assad.
"It is our position to work with the international community, to work with our partners to try to bring about the political transition that the Syrian people desperately deserve. It is our firm belief that that political transition cannot take place without Assad stepping down, removing himself from power," he said.
"The United States does not make a decision about the disposition of leaders who remove themselves from power. That’s obviously up to the Syrian people," Carney said.
Meanwhile, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little welcomed the decision of a Syrian pilot to defect to Jordan.
"We very much welcome the pilot`s decision to do the right thing. We`ve long called for members of the Syrian armed forces and members of the Syrian regime to defect and to abandon their positions rather than be complicit in the regime`s atrocities," said.
"This is just one of countless instances where Syrians, including members of the security forces, have rejected the abysmal actions of the Assad regime, and it certainly will not be the last," he said.
At another news conference, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said at the moment there is no evidence that Assad has any interest in doing what is the right thing for his people, starting with ending the violence but continuing on to stepping down and leaving the country, which would be in the best interest of Syria.