U.S. 'Exploring' Humanitarian Aid to Syria, McCain Calls for Arming FSA

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Senior Republican senator John McCain urged the United States Tuesday to consider arming the opposition fighting the forces of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.

"We should start considering all options, including arming the opposition. The blood-letting has got to stop," he told reporters.

McCain, who stopped short of calling for military intervention, made the remarks as he and other Republican senators were about to meet with visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

He also called for "a contact group, a joint coalition" on Syria but did not specify what that meant.

His comments came a day after the United States closed its embassy in Syria and pulled out all its staff, amid an escalating crackdown on the opposition by the Assad regime.

President Barack Obama shied away from talk of military intervention, however, and vowed to pursue diplomatic means.

Russia and China on Saturday vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the violence, which human rights group say has claimed some 6,000 lives since the outbreak of the revolt almost a year ago.

U.S. Senator John Kerry said the crisis in Syria was "very different" from events that led to NATO-led strikes in Libya and called for a new push to get Russia and China to back U.N. action.

"This is a very different playing field, very different set of players, very different set of possible prospects," he said as he met with Lieberman.

"I think we have to approach it differently. I think we have to condemn what is happening -- and we have. I think we have to work very diligently with China and Russia to see if we can move them, change their positions," he said.

"I think we have to approach it as we are: thoughtfully but very clear about where our preferences lie," said Kerry.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, meanwhile, held talks with Assad in Damascus Tuesday and insisted that Assad was "fully committed" to ending the bloodshed.

Later on Tuesday, the United States said it was working with friends to discuss how to provide humanitarian aid to Syrians caught in the government crackdown, but said it was not clear how much it would be able to help.

"We are exploring the possibility of providing humanitarian aid to Syrians," White House spokesman Jay Carney said, saying any such move would come as Washington and partners ratchet up pressure on Assad's government.

But pressed on how any such aid would be delivered and how it would be targeted, Carney said no such "mechanisms" currently existed.

State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland also weighed in on the question of providing humanitarian aid to Syrians, but made clear any such help would fall well short of direct aid to rebels battling Assad's fierce crackdown.

"It's frankly not clear how much we're going to be able to do, but we want to help," said Nuland, adding that suggestions like creating humanitarian corridors or safe zones for Syrian civilians were not yet realistic.

"Some of these proposals that people are brooding about could not be done without foreign military intervention -- as we have said, we don't think more arms into Syria is the right answer," she said.

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