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Syria rebels issue urgent plea to U.S.

| Thursday, July 25, 2013, 10:00 p.m.

UNITED NATIONS — The leader of Syria's Western-backed opposition group told Secretary John Kerry on Thursday that the United States must quickly supply rebels with promised weapons to prevent a military victory by President Bashar Assad's regime.

Ahmad Al-Jarba, in a statement sent out while he was meeting with Kerry at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, called the situation in Syria “desperate” and said the opposition urgently needs American action “to push the international community to demand a political transition.”

The newly elected head of the Syrian National Coalition accused the Assad regime of using indiscriminate weapons ranging from chemical weapons to cluster bombs and said opposition fighters must have weapons to defend themselves and protect civilians.

The Obama administration decided in June to begin arming Syrian rebels groups when the United States said it had conclusive evidence that Assad's regime used chemical weapons against opposition forces. But the United States has not sent any weapons amid concerns they could end up in the hands of al-Qaida-backed groups and other extremists.

Syria's rebels, however, have recently received shipments of more powerful weapons from gulf allies, particularly anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.

Kerry met with Al-Jarba in an effort to promote international efforts to convene a conference in Geneva to try to move forward with a transitional government based on a plan adopted in that city a year ago.

Kerry stressed earlier in the day that “there is no military solution” to the 2½-year-old civil war.

“There is only a political solution, and that will require leadership in order to bring people to the table,” he said. He stood beside U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who minutes earlier announced the grim new death toll.

Kerry said the opposition agreed to work to pinpoint the conditions under which a new Geneva conference can work.

They believe Geneva “is very important, and we are going to work it out,” he said.

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