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United States mulls stepped up aid for Syria as G8 meets

Published: Updated:

U.S. support for the Syrian opposition may be stepped up, a top U.S. official said Wednesday, as Secretary of State John Kerry and G8 ministers were to meet rebel leaders.

“The United States every single day thinks about what more we can do to help bring this horrible situation to an end,” the senior U.S. administration official said, according to AFP news agency, asking not to be identified.

The aim was to “move to a transition government that reflects the legitimate desires of the people,” the official said.

The battle to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is now in its third year, with an estimated 70,000 people said to have been killed and millions forced to flee their homes.

Kerry was to meet later with Syrian opposition prime minister Ghassan Hitto and other top coalition members on the sidelines of a G8 foreign ministers meeting in London, for talks hosted by British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

So far the United States has been the single largest donor of humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, spending $385 million through aid agencies and the United Nations for food, shelter and medical aid.

It has also provided around $115 million in non-lethal aid for such items as communications equipment, and is beginning to distribute food and medical supplies to the Free Syrian Army.

But despite plans put forward by various sections of the U.S. government, President Barack Obama has refused to arm the opposition fearing that weapons could get into militant hands in a volatile and complex conflict.

Kerry told reporters Tuesday that the White House would make any announcements on “stepped-up efforts” for the Syrian opposition.

But he added: “I will say that those efforts have been very much front and centre in our discussions in the last week in Washington.”

The G8 ministers would discuss the Syrian crisis at a dinner on Wednesday night, and was expected to issue “quite a strong statement” at the end of their two-day meeting.