WASHINGTON - The United States has begun distributing some weapons to the Syrian rebels, a spokesman for the Syrian Coalition of groups opposed to President Bashar Assad said on Tuesday, after months of reported delays.
White House officials suggested in June that President Barack Obama had decided to provide military aid to the Syrian rebels, but in the months since, rebel leaders and US lawmakers have said no lethal assistance has arrived.
"The US is distributing non-lethal aid and ... some lethal assistance as well to the SMC (Supreme Military Council)," Saleh told a news conference, referring to the council that oversees operations of rebels loyal to General Salim Idriss.
The United States is providing lethal assistance "because they are sure that the mechanisms that the SMC has established are well tested and they will be sure that the weapons are not falling into the wrong hands," Saleh said.
He apparently referred to Washington's concerns that US arms could end up benefiting radical Islamist groups, such as the al Nusra Front, active in northern Syria.
Saleh's comments at a Washington news conference may be the first public indication that US-provided military goods such as arms or ammunition are actually moving to anti-Assad forces.