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Senate chairman pushed for arming Syrian rebels

By Donna Cassata

Associated Press

Published: Monday, May 6 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

An Syrian man wrapped in a Syrian flag with a portrait of President Bashar Assad, walks past anti riot police during an anti-Israeli demonstration in front of the UN office in Tehran, Iran, Monday, May 6, 2013. Iran Condemns Israeli Air strikes on Syria and urged countries in the region to stand against the attack. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Ebrahim Noroozi, ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is calling for the United States to provide weapons to vetted Syrian opposition groups battling President Bashar Assad's forces in the 2-year-old civil war.

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey introduced legislation on Monday that would allow for arms, military training and non-lethal aid to rebels that meet certain criteria on human rights and don't have links to terrorism.

The bill also would create a $250 million fund to assist the country in a transition after the end of the Assad regime. The measure would give the U.S. government the power to sanction any individual who sells or transfers military equipment, weapons or oil to Assad.

Menendez said the U.S. must act to tip the scales in favor of the opposition.

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