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Kerry Confident Gulf Arabs Sending Arms To Moderate Syrian Rebels

  • RFE/RL

A rebel aims his weapon during clashes with government forces in the streets of Aleppo on March 4.

A rebel aims his weapon during clashes with government forces in the streets of Aleppo on March 4.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Washington is increasingly confident that weapons being sent by U.S. allies in the region to Syrian rebels are going to moderate forces rather than extremists.

Kerry made the remark in Doha after talks with officials in Qatar and an earlier visit with officials in Saudi Arabia.

Both countries are thought to be sending weapons to Syrian rebels.

Washington says it doesn’t want to send weapons due to fears they may find their way to Islamist militants who could use them against Western targets.

Kerry said his talks in Qatar and Saudi Arabia included discussions about the types of weapons being transferred to Syrian rebels and the ability to “guarantee that it’s going to the right people and to the moderate Syrian opposition coalition."

Kerry's remarks come as Syrian rebels are reported to have seized a city in the northeast of the country.

Video showed crowds pulling down a statue of the late father of President Bashar al-Assad in Raqqa, which is located on the Euphrates River.

The rebels do not claim to hold any other provincial capitals.

Rebel fighters say forces loyal to Assad still control the provincial airport some 60 kilometers from Raqqa.

Activists from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights later reported that rebels had captured Raqqa's governor, Hassan Jalili, after clashes overnight near the governor's residence. A short amateur video distributed by the Britain-based group showed Jalili and Suleiman Suleiman, the ruling Baath party's secretary-general for the province, seated among rebels.

Jalili represents the highest-ranking Assad-regime official to be captured by rebels.

Meanwhile, the civil war has spilled into neighboring Iraq, where officials reported that gunmen had killed at least 40 Syrian soldiers and government employees as they headed home after fleeing a Syrian rebel advance last week.

At the United Nations, Israel warned that it could not "stand idle" as the Syrian conflict spilled over borders.

Israel's UN ambassador complained to the 15-member Security Council about shells from Syria landing in Israel.

Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, president of the Security Council for March, said the security situation between Syria and Israel was also being threatened by "a very new and dangerous phenomenon" of armed groups operating in a so-called area of separation in the Golan Heights between the countries.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
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