Sat, Jul 27, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Syrian opposition presses Kerry to arm rebel forces

AFP, UNITED NATIONS

Syrian opposition leaders on Thursday pressed US Secretary of State John Kerry to arm rebel groups and said there could be no peace talks while government forces kill civilians.

Kerry held his first meeting with Syrian National Coalition president Ahmad Jarba at the US mission to the UN in New York.

The coalition was to meet UN Security Council envoys yesterday.

After the talks, Jarba said the situation is now “desperate” in Syria as he justified his call for arms. Kerry instead stressed flagging efforts to hold an international peace conference.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is “pursuing a military victory using indiscriminate weapons ranging from chemical weapons to cluster bombs,” Jarba said in a statement on the talks.

“Until the regime has been forced to accept a political solution, we must have the means to protect ourselves and defend civilians. To deny us the right to self-defense is to risk that the regime will survive: Thousands will be executed, the repression will continue without end,” he said.

The UN announced earlier on Thursday that more than 100,000 people have now been killed in the conflict that started in March 2011.

Jarba, who was elected coalition president on July 6, said time is running out.

“American leadership and drive is essential to end this war and bring the democracy that the large majority of the Syrian people want,” he said.

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