BEIRUT (AP) — The Syrian government today dismissed U.S. charges that it used chemical weapons as "full of lies," accusing President Barack Obama of resorting to fabrications to justify his decision to arm Syrian rebels.
The commander of the main rebel umbrella group welcomed the U.S. move.
The U.S. decision to begin arming the rebels, though details have not been completed, marks a deepening of U.S. involvement in Syria's two-year civil war. It comes as President Bashar Assad's forces have been scoring victories, driving rebels out of a key town near the Lebanese border and launching offensives in the center and north, targeting Aleppo, the nation's largest city.
U.S. officials said the administration could provide the rebel fighters with a range of weapons, including small arms, ammunition, assault rifles and a variety of anti-tank weaponry such as shoulder-fired rocket-propelled grenades and other missiles.
However, no final decisions have been made on the type of weaponry or when it would reach the rebels, according to the officials, who insisted on anonymity in order to discuss internal administration discussions with reporters.
In addition to the increased military aid, the U.S. also announced Thursday it had conclusive evidence that Assad's regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against opposition forces. The White House said multiple chemical attacks last year killed up to 150 people.