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US shifting Syria focus from UN diplomacy to aiding rebels

July 24, 2012 04:14

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration, shifting its focus away from deadlocked U.N. diplomacy over Syria, is now seeking ways to further bolster Syrian rebel forces, including increased supplies of communications equipment and sharing of intelligence, US sources said on Monday.

The stepped-up US effort to assist the fractious Syrian opposition comes as Washington turns to like-minded Western and Arab countries to help ratchet up pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose vulnerability was laid bare last week with a deadly bomb attack on his inner circle.

That bold attack, together with rebel offensives in Syria's two biggest cities and a double-veto of a Syria sanctions resolution at the United Nations, has spurred US officials to intensify contingency planning for Assad's possible fall from power.

Though aides to US President Barack Obama are not ready to predict how long Assad can stay in power, they are struggling to devise an endgame that would safeguard Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles and prevent the breakup of the country along sectarian lines.

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