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Continued: Hezbollah says it will keep fighting in Syria after US decides to arm rebels in civil war

  • Article by: SARAH EL DEEB , Associated Press
  • Last update: June 14, 2013 - 3:30 PM

Loay AlMikdad, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army, said Idris will begin meeting with international representatives Saturday to work out the details of the weapons and their delivery.

"We encourage them to take a decision in this relation, by establishing a no-fly zone either all over Syria or areas they choose based on their technical or military considerations on the ground," he said, adding that would ensure safe areas for civilians.

"We hope they start arming immediately. Any delay costs blood of Syrians. It is not water, it is blood of the Syrians, women and children and its future," AlMikdad told The Associated Press. He said the rebels have asked for shoulder-fired rockets, anti-tank missiles, anti-aircrafts missiles, surface-to-surface missiles and armored vehicles.

The U.S. has made no decision on operating a no-fly zone over Syria, said Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser.

A Syrian opposition figure with wide knowledge of the situation in Syria said Friday that a French-Saudi operation to arm rebels has been underway along the Turkish-Syrian border for the past few days. He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

The French government did not confirm the deliveries and an official with the French president's office said: "It's false."

The U.S. said Thursday it had conclusive evidence that Assad's regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against opposition forces. The Syrian government dismissed the U.S. allegations Friday as "full of lies."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said there can be no certainty of chemical weapons use in Syria without an on-the-ground investigation. Ban said he was opposed to the U.S. decision to arm the rebels, adding that increasing the flow of weapons to either side "would not be helpful."

At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters that Washington is "very confident" in its assessment on Syria's use of chemical weapons.

"We've taken two months to reach this through a very careful and deliberative process," Rice said.

Obama's decision to arm the rebels is bound to heighten tensions with Russia, a staunch ally of Assad, and Moscow disputed the allegations about chemical weapons use by the Syrian regime.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a phone conversation Friday that the "accusations put forth by the United States to Damascus about the use of chemical weapons are not supported by trustworthy facts," a Russian Foreign Ministry statement said.

Lavrov told Kerry that stepping up U.S. involvement would be "fraught with escalation in the region," the statement added.

Earlier, President Vladimir Putin's foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said the information provided by U.S. officials to Russia "didn't look convincing."

Ushakov said there was no talk yet about whether Russia could retaliate to the U.S. move to supply weapons to the Syrian rebels by delivering the S-300 air defense missile systems to the regime.

Alexey Pushkov, chairman of Russia's parliamentary foreign affairs committee, wrote on his Twitter account Friday that "the data on Assad's use of chemical weapons were faked in the same place as the lie about (Saddam) Hussein's weapons of mass destruction," referring to the deposed Iraqi dictator.

"Obama is going down the route of G. Bush," he added, a reference to former President George W. Bush's assertion — never proven, but used to justify the invasion of Iraq — that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Koray Caliskan, associate professor of political science at Bogazici University, said the U.S. decision to arm the rebels while Russia continues to militarize Syria "from top to bottom" will have dire consequences for Syria.

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