Syrian rebel leader urges West to supply heavy weapons

June 15, 2013 00:59
1 minute read.

The commander of Syria's main rebel fighting force urged Western allies on Friday to supply anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles and to create a no-fly zone, saying if properly armed he could defeat President Bashar Assad's army within six months.

Speaking a day after Washington said it would arm the rebels, Free Syrian Army (FSA) commander Salim Idriss told Reuters his forces urgently needed heavier weapons in the northern city of Aleppo, where Assad's government has said its troops are preparing a massive assault.

"The regime, supported by Hezbollah, is trying to recapture the city and suburbs and we are now in most need. We hope that our friends will not leave us alone," Idriss said after meeting with US and European officials in Turkey.

Western diplomats said on Friday the United States was considering a no-fly zone in Syria, potentially its first direct intervention into the two-year-old civil war, after the White House said Syria had crossed a "red line" by using nerve gas.

"The no-fly zone is very important because the air force of the regime is very effective," Idriss said.

"They use modern jets to bombard the cities and towns, and civilians and fighters, and we don't have any effective kind of weapons for air defence."

US President Barack Obama has authorized sending US weapons to Syrian rebels for the first time, a U.S. official said on Thursday, after months of deliberation.

The decision came as Assad's forces and their Lebanese Hezbollah allies turned their guns on the north, fighting near Aleppo and bombarding the central city of Homs after seizing the initiative by winning the open backing of Hezbollah last month and capturing the strategic town of Qusair last week.

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