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McCain calls for military aid to Syria opposition

CAIRO, February 20, 2012 (AFP)

Top Republican US Senator John McCain called on Monday for Syria’s opposition to be given weapons to help “defend themselves” against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, while excluding direct US aid.

“I’m not calling for the direct supply of weapons by the United States of America,” he told a news conference in Cairo.

“We have seen in Libya and we have seen in previous conflicts there are ways to get weapons to people so they can defend themselves.”

“There are ways to get weapons into Syria. It is time we gave the (opposition) the wherewithal to fight back and stop the slaughter,” he said, while underlining that Iran and Russia were supplying military aid to the Syrian regime.

McCain had said earlier this month that diplomacy had been nearly exhausted and that the time had come to consider arming the outgunned Syrian opposition.

The White House and US State Department poured cold water on the idea, which has also been rejected by other global powers, notably veto-wielding UN Security Council members Russia and China, despite the ongoing violence.

More than 6,000 people have died in the Syrian regime’s 11-month crackdown on dissent, activists say.

Two warships from Iran docked at the Syrian port of Tartus, Tehran’s state television reported on Monday, adding that their crew would train Syrian sailors.

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