Jarba pleads for arms to defeat Assad’s army

U.S. weighs possibility of more economic sanctions aimed at changing Assad's calculus ahead of June elections

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Syrian opposition chief Ahmad al- Jarba called on the United States Wednesday to supply his forces with the weapons necessary to defeat President Bashar al-Assad’s well-armed forces.

Opposition forces need “efficient weapons to face these attacks including air raids, so we can change the balance of power on the ground,” Jarba told a U.S. think-tank at the start of his first official visit to Washington. “This would allow for a political solution,” he insisted.

Jarba also said the international community must unite to stop Assad as he runs for office “on the dead bodies of Syrians.”

Speaking at the start of his first official visit to Washington, Jarba condemned next month's elections as a “farce,” warning it would give Assad “license to kill for many years to come.”


President Barack Obama is expected to meet with Jarab in the coming days, as the U.S. weighs the possibility of more economic sanctions aimed at changing Assad's calculus ahead of June elections.

The exact day of Obama's meeting was unclear, though it's likely to occur after the president returns from a three-day trip to the West Coast that kicks off Wednesday.

OPINION: Ahmed Jarba attempts to persuade the White House

Jarba's trip to Washington comes as the Obama administration is boosting its support for the Syrian Opposition Council. The State Department announced Monday that it would give the opposition's offices in Washington and New York formal diplomatic status and increase non-lethal assistance to the opposition by $27 million.

The administration recognized the opposition council as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in December 2012, but its U.S. offices had been recognized only as informal liaison bureaus until this week.

The administration is considering taking additional steps in the coming days, including the possibility of levying new sanctions on the Assad regime.

Earlier U.S. sanctions on Assad and his associates have had little impact in stemming the bloody civil war that has stretched into a fourth year. More than 150,000 people have been killed in the clashes between rebels and forces loyal to Assad, with millions of others displaced by the war.

The White House has denounced the June presidential elections in Syria as a farce aimed at giving Assad the veneer of electoral legitimacy. Assad has ruled Syria since 2000, when he took over from his late father.

[With AP]

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