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Casey, Rubio back bill for nonlethal aid to Syrian rebels

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A bipartisan Senate bill seeks to authorize nonlethal equipment and training for vetted Syrian rebels and increase U.S. assistance to victims of Syria's 2-year-old civil war.

The Syria Democratic Transition Act of 2013 also seeks a U.S. plan to identify and secure all Syrian weapons stockpiles, expand sanctions against the Central Bank of Syria, and strengthen U.S. support for "democratically-oriented" opposition groups in Syria.

The bill is sponsored by Sens. Robert P. Casey Jr., Pennsylvania Democrat, and Marco Rubio, Florida Republican.

More than 70,000 Syrians have been killed and more than 1.1 million refugees have fled to Syria's neighbors since the start of the uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime.

"In Syria, we have a terrible humanitarian crisis that is strengthening Iran's influence and giving Islamist terrorists a chance to seize power after Assad is gone," Mr. Rubio said. "This legislation is a way forward in Syria that is in line with our interests."

Mr. Casey said the Senate should stand with the people of Syria because the fall of the Assad regime "is not only good for Syria, but will deal a significant blow to Iran and Hezbollah," the Lebanese militant group.

"The killing and destruction has gone on too long, and we need to renew our efforts to support the Syrian people and opposition," he added.

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