WASHINGTON, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- The United States and its allies are mulling direct aid to the Syrian opposition including body armor and armored vehicles, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
Secretary of State John Kerry, currently on a trip to Europe and then the Middle East, has been discussing the possible policy shift with his foreign counterparts, the newspaper said.
Finalization of the new provision will be announced on Thursday when Kerry and others will attend a meeting with the Syrian opposition in Rome. Opposition political leaders had threatened to boycott the meeting, but they changed their mind after Kerry and U. S. Vice President Joe Biden promised substantive proposals to be on the table.
"The pending shift to a more active role comes as the administration and its partners backing the opposition, including Britain, France and countries in Syria's region, have concluded that there is little immediate chance for a negotiated political settlement with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad," the Washington Post report said.
A number of countries opposed the change, but it was favored by Britain, France, Germany and Italy, the paper said, quoting a European official.
The new rule will allow "things that don't of themselves kill people" to be shipped to the Syrian opposition, including night- vision equipment, armored vehicles, bulletproof jackets and military training.
Washington has not provided direct aid to the military or political wing of the Syrian opposition throughout the two-year- old conflict in the Arab nation, in which some 70,000 people have been killed, and U.S. officials remain opposed to providing weapons to the rebels.
Instead, the Obama administration has offered indirect non- lethal aid like communications equipment to the opposition, as well as humanitarian aid through international institutions and nongovernmental organizations.
Kerry has repeatedly made indirect references to a policy shift during his travels. He told a group of German students on Tuesday that Washington wants a "peaceful resolution" in Syria, but if its leaders refuse to negotiate and continue to kill citizens, "then you need to at least provide some kind of support" for those fighting for their rights.
While in London on Monday, he said: "We are not coming to Rome simply to talk. We're coming ... to make decisions about next steps."
Despite pleas by Britain and France, the European Union refused last week to lift entirely a year-long embargo on Syria when it expires this Friday and renewed it for three months for further review until May.
However, the bloc inserted a clause that allows member states " to provide greater non-lethal support and technical assistance for the protection of civilians," the Washington Post said, quoting European officials.
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