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U.S. allots another $100M to aid Syrian refugees, delays decision on arming rebels

| Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 7:51 p.m.
REUTERS
A torn picture of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is seen on a government building in Raqqa province, east Syria May 8, 2013. REUTERS/Hamid Khatib (SYRIA - Tags: CONFLICT POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

ROME — The Obama administration is providing $100 million in new Syria aid, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, but the money is for humanitarian purposes and not linked to any decision on arming Syrian rebels.

The announcement will be made by Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday in Rome, where his diplomacy includes a meeting with Jordan's foreign minister, the officials said.

The funds will help support 1.4 million Syrian refugees, including many in U.S. ally Jordan, and hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped by the violence inside Syria. Total U.S. humanitarian assistance in the two-year war will climb to $510 million.

The officials weren't authorized to speak publicly on the matter ahead of Kerry's announcement and demanded anonymity.

While the cash influx will certainly be welcomed by aid groups and refugee organizations that have lamented a lack of financial support, it is unlikely to end the clamoring for lethal assistance among rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.

The Obama administration has said it is considering providing weapons to vetted units in the armed opposition, among other military options, since last week's revelation of a U.S. intelligence assessment that suggested chemical weapons use by the Assad regime. Washington also is looking for ways to halt the violence that has killed more than 70,000 people.

But the United States maintains deep reservations about providing direct military assistance, given the growing presence of al-Qaida-linked and other extremists in the rebel ranks.

Underscoring the administration's goal of a peaceful transition of power to end the war, Kerry met for more than five hours Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow.

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