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US mulls arming Syria rebels, as GOP candidates give blessing

The US is edging toward arming Syria's rebels, several media outlets reported Wednesday, citing a visit by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Tunisia to discuss resolutions for the Syrian crisis.

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Secretary of State HIllary Clinton pictured at the U.S. State Department February 13, 2012 in Washington, DC. Clinton had been meeting in Washington with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on regional issues including Syria. (Win McNamee/AFP/Getty Images)

The US is edging toward arming Syria's rebels, several media outlets reported Wednesday, citing a visit by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Tunisia to discuss resolutions for the Syrian crisis.

And Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have lent their support to the idea of arming the Syrian opposition in its fight to topple President Bashar al-Assad, Reuters reported.

In Tunisia, Clinton will attend a gathering Friday of Western and Arab countries — dubbed the Friends of Syria group — favoring regime change in Syria, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

Although the US had so far focused on diplomatic measures, the Obama administration's opposition to arming the rebels appeared to be softening as civilian casualties mounted, according to the CSM.

On Wednesday, an American and a French journalist holed up in the Syrian city of Homs were among dozens killed by mortar fire.

GlobalPost reports: Journalists killed by heavy shelling in Homs)

The Washington Post reported that Syrian authorities had ignored a call by the International Committee of the Red Cross for daily two-hour cease-fires to allow medicine and food into civilian areas.

They instead blamed terrorist groups and sanctions for any lack of medical care.

According to CNN, White House spokesman Jay Carney and State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland this week suggested that "additional measures" could be considered if the government crackdown on civilians continued.

Nuland said that the US was seeking a "political solution" for Assad to step aside, CNN reported, insisting that the Obama administration did not "believe that it makes sense to contribute now to the further militarization of Syria.

However, Nuland said: "If we can't get Assad to yield to the pressure that we are all bringing to bear, we may have to consider additional measures."

Carney, at a Tuesday press conference, also said:  "I'm not ruling out potential future actions, but there is an opportunity that still exists, we believe, for a peaceful transition to occur in Syria."

Addressing the Homs latest violence on Wednesday, State Department spokesman Mark Toner reportedly said:

"We’ve all watched, I think, with some degree of horror as we’ve witnessed the onslaught. The international community needs to do more to help the Syrian people."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/120223/syria-rebels-weapons-us-arms-hillary-clinton