US senators move to block help for Syrian rebels

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 June, 2013, 11:36pm

Four US senators have introduced legislation that would bar President Barack Obama from providing military aid to Syria's rebels, saying the administration had provided too little information about what they saw as a risky intervention.

The bill would prevent United States defence and intelligence agencies from using any funds to support military, paramilitary or covert operations in Syria, directly or indirectly.

The bill's sponsors - Democrats Tom Udall and Chris Murphy and Republicans Mike Lee and Rand Paul - expressed doubts about Washington's ability to ensure weapons would not fall into the wrong hands, and called for debate in Congress before the nation became more involved in the civil war.

"The president's unilateral decision to arm Syrian rebels is incredibly disturbing, considering what little we know about whom we are arming," Paul said.

Other legislators argued it was in the national security interests of the US to become more involved in Syria.

After months of equivocating, Obama decided a week ago to provide military aid to rebels trying to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, pointing out that Assad's government had started to use chemical weapons in the two-year-long conflict.

The administration has since been working feverishly to win more support in congress for the plan.

Secretary of State John Kerry, a former senator, has been on Capitol Hill at least twice this week to make the administration's case to influential legislators from both parties.