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Syrian rebel leader in Aleppo

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By The Associated Press
Sunday, March 3, 2013, 9:03 p.m.

With rebels advancing, the leader of the Syrian opposition made his first visit on Sunday to areas near the embattled northern city of Aleppo as fighters trying to oust President Bashar Assad captured a police academy and a border crossing along the frontier with Iraq.

Assad, meanwhile, lashed out at the West for helping his opponents in the civil war, delivering a blistering rebuke to Secretary of State John Kerry's announcement that the United States will for the first time provide medical supplies and other non-lethal aid directly to the rebels in addition to $60 million in assistance to Syria's political opposition.

Aleppo, the nation's largest city, has been a major front in the nearly 2-year-old uprising. Government forces and rebels have been locked in a stalemate there since July.

Mouaz al-Khatib met Sunday with Syrians in the two rebel-held Aleppo suburbs of Manbah and Jarablus, a statement said.

The stated goal of his trip — his first since being named the leader of the Syrian National Coalition late last year — was to inspect living conditions.

But his foray to the edge of Aleppo also could be an attempt to boost his group's standing among civilians and fighters on the ground, many of whom view the Western-backed political leadership in exile as irrelevant and out of touch.

The areas along Syria's northern border with Turkey are largely ruled by rival brigades and fighter units that operate autonomously and have no links to the political opposition.

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