Sens. call for increased Syrian aid

March 19, 2013 at 3:20 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 19 (UPI) -- Two U.S. senators introduced a bill Tuesday that would increase sanctions and provide more assistance to those impacted by the armed conflict in Syria.

Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced the Syrian Democratic Transition Act calls for greater humanitarian aid to refugees and support for creating a democratic transition authority to help lead the nation once President Bashar Assad's hold on power is gone. It also calls on the Obama administration to provide non-military assistance to vetted groups in the rebel alliance opposing Assad that are amenable to U.S. interests in the region.

The proposal also urges the Obama administration to penalize countries still doing business with the Central Bank of Syria.

The bill stops short of directly arming the rebel forces, some elements of which embrace a radical Islamic agenda.

"This bill includes a combination of humanitarian assistance, non-lethal equipment and training for the armed opposition, and sanctions against elements of the regime," Casey said in a statement. "The killing and destruction has gone on too long and we need to renew our efforts to support the Syrian people and opposition." 

Rubio called the Syrian conflict a "terrible humanitarian crisis" and cited Iran's influence in the region for supporting the measure.

"Islamist terrorists [have] a chance to seize power after Assad is gone," Rubio said. "This legislation is a way forward in Syria that is in line with our interests."

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