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U.S. House backs funding Syrian opposition

U.S. House backs funding Syrian opposition
Opposition Syrian Free Army members hold their guns as they attend a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Jrjanaz near Idlib in Syria on February 11, 2012. UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, March 9 (UPI) -- A bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives calls for financial and political assistance to pro-democracy groups in Syria.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee passed the so-called Syrian Freedom Support Act by a unanimous vote.

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U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairwoman of the House committee, said she believed Syrian President Bashar Assad was "digging in for a long-term war."

Syrian forces last week took control over the Baba Amr district of the restive Syrian city of Homs. Valerie Amos, the humanitarian chief for the United Nations, said she was "devastated" by what she saw in Baba Amr.

"The bloody assault on the city of Homs and other areas of the country clearly show the regime will not release its stranglehold on the Syrian people," said Ros-Lehtinen.

The act, drafted by the Florida lawmaker, would make it official U.S. policy to deny Damascus the ability to oppress its own people.

"The bill also authorizes financial and political assistance to entities that support a peaceful democratic transition in Syria, and requires the secretary of state to submit a strategy to support a transition to a democratic government in Syria," the congresswoman's Web site stated.

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Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Anan is due in Syria this weekend, acting as a joint U.N.-Arab League envoy to the crisis. He said a solution lies in "political settlement," while opposition groups expressed "disappointment" given the escalation of the crisis, the BBC reports.

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