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US Expanding Support to Syrian Rebels

Scott Peterson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama has directed his national security team to identify ways to significantly ramp up U.S. support of the opposition forces battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Among the options under consideration are supplying arms to rebel forces, although no decision on that has been made.

The first step will likely be a dramatic expansion of non-lethal aid to opposition fighters.

“The items to be supplied will be decided after consultations with the Supreme Military Command,” National Security Council Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden tells ABC News. “Additional communications equipment, armor, night vision goggles and vehicles are among the items being discussed.”

Hayden also suggested aid to the rebels could go beyond such non-lethal assistance.

“We continue to consider all other possible options that would accomplish our objective of hastening a political transition,” she said.

Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the U.S. would be doubling aid to the opposition, bringing the total U.S. aid to $250 million, including non-lethal supplies to the opposition’s military wing.

Beyond that, senior administration sources say the White House is actively considering supplying the rebels with arms. This is a move President Obama has resisted for fears the weapons could fall into the wrong hands; al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militants are fighting alongside Syrian forces opposing Assad.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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