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No U.S. arms to Syrian rebels, Rep. Royce says

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House Foreign Affairs Committee Committee Chairman Ed Royce said the United States should not arm opposition groups in Syria and that the U.S. is helping the rebel forces in other ways.

The California Republican said that other nations and sources have been “quite willing” to provide weapons to opposition forces determined to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“This is a fight that needs to be carried on by Syrians and the Free Syrian Army,” Mr. Royce told MSNBC on Friday. “At the same time, they’re getting a lot of aid from the U.S. in other ways.”

U.S. assistance, he said, includes vetting and training commanders in the opposition forces.

Mr. Royce added that it’s imperative that foreign fighters — who may be involved or sympathetic with al Qaeda — are barred from joining the rebel uprising. And the best way to accomplish that, he said, is to pressure neighbor Qatar, which he said has a history of supporting foreign al Qaeda-aligned fighters in Libya, Syria and elsewhere.

“We wouldn’t be in the problem (in Syria) right now if they had not facilitated this,” he said of Qatar. “What we need to do, and the international community … is to explain all the consequences that will — all of the ramifications — and lean heavily on (Qatar) to quit aiding and abetting outside fighters, let’s call this an al Qaeda franchise, that end up coming into the country.”

The chairman added that there is a general consensus among U.S. and European intelligence officials that Mr. Assad used chemical weapons on his own citizens. But he stopped short of calling for a United Nations-mandated no-fly zone over Syria or for U.S. military intervention.

“So the question is, how can the international community move quickly to throw its weight behind the Free Syrian Forces, and I think that’s what you see happening,” he said.

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