U.S. ‘evaluating’ next steps in Syria conflict: Kerry

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The United States is weighing up what steps to take next to try to end the conflict in Syria, new Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday, adding there was “too much killing” in the 22-month war.

“There’s too much killing and there’s too much violence and we obviously want to try to find a way forward,” Kerry said, adding: “It is a very complicated and very dangerous situation.”

“We are evaluating now, we are taking a look at what steps, if any, diplomatic particularly, might be able to be taken in an effort to reduce that violence and deal with that situation.”

His comments came after the White House defended its decision to reject a plan to arm the Syrian opposition, put forward last year by top members of President Barack Obama’s cabinet.

Kerry said he was not aware of what decisions had been made before he took over as secretary of state a week ago, stressing he planned to go forward now.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had said during a congressional hearing on Thursday that he had backed plans to arm and train vetted rebel groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, in an initiative also supported by former secretary of state
Hillary Clinton and ex-CIA chief David Petraeus.

So far the Obama administration has declined to provide anything other than humanitarian or non-lethal aid to Syrian rebels, including communications equipment.

White House spokesman Jay Carney argued the problem was not a lack of arms in Syria, hinting rebels were getting supplies from other regional powers while Assad is helped by outsiders like Iran.

Carney said the U.S. priority was to ensure that weapons provided by Americans did not end up in the wrong hands and to create more danger for “the U.S., the Syrian people or for Israel.”