Syrian opposition chief opens high-level talks in US

US Secretary of State John Kerry has stood side-by-side with Syrian opposition chief Ahmad Jarba in a public show of support, but made no mention of the rebels` plea for heavy weapons to help end the war.

Washington: US Secretary of State John Kerry has stood side-by-side with Syrian opposition chief Ahmad Jarba in a public show of support, but made no mention of the rebels` plea for heavy weapons to help end the war.

Jarba, head of the Syrian National Coalition, has said he would ask the US administration for anti-aircraft weapons to battle daily barrel bombings unleashed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and help change the balance militarily on the ground.

US officials privately acknowledged he made the request in talks with Kerry at the State Department, but they refused to be drawn on the response.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki meanwhile pointed to a series of new US measures including an extra USD 27 million in non-lethal aid for the rebels on the ground, as well as Treasury sanctions against Syrian officials.

"I have nothing to announce in terms of any change in our position," said Psaki, referring to the long-standing policy of the US administration to provide only non-lethal military support such as communications equipment, body Armour and night-vision goggles.

"We are continuing to build the capacity of the moderate opposition, including through the provision of assistance to vetted members of the moderate, armed opposition," she said.

"I am not going to outline that or detail that from here, but we continue to consider a range of options."

It is understood that Jarba will also meet with US President Barack Obama during his eight-day trip to the US which ends on May 14.
His visit comes as the last rebels pull out of the centre of the battleground city of Homs, handing a symbolic victory to Assad ahead of controversial elections next month.

Jarba Wednesday slammed the polls saying Assad wanted to "run for office on the dead bodies of Syrians" in a three-year conflict which has now claimed more than 150,000 lives.

Jarba "understands better than anybody, the stakes and the struggle and the fight against extremism," Kerry said as he welcomed him to the State Department.

"We are committed to do our part to support the moderate opposition in its efforts to provide a legitimate voice to the aspirations and hopes of the Syrian people," he added.

And he praised Jarba and the SNC for building "an inclusive and moderate institution" committed "to the protection of all people, all minorities, all rights within Syria."

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