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US Welcomes Saudi Offer to Send Troops to Syria


FILE - Saudi troops stand at attention at their base in Yemen's southern port city of Aden, Sept. 28, 2015.

The United States has welcomed a Saudi offer to deploy special forces to support a possible coalition ground operation inside Syria.

In Washington, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Monday that his country's willingness to send special forces to Syria is contingent on the U.S. leading the ground effort.

"There is a discussion with regard to a ground force contingent, or a special forces contingent, to operate in Syria by this international U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has expressed its readiness to provide special forces to such operations should they occur," he said, using an acronym for Islamic State.

While he declined to discuss potential Saudi troop numbers, deployment dates or targets, Jubeir said Saudi forces would be part of an international coalition that "will operate the way it has operated in the past, as an international coalition, even when there is a ground force contingent in Syria.''

Four months of Russian airstrikes have tipped momentum toward Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the nearly 5-year Syrian civil war in which at least 250,000 people have died and more than 10 million have fled their homes.

U.S. President Barack Obama has resisted committing U.S. ground troops to the Syrian civil war, but has sought greater help from regional leaders in the Middle East in the fight against Islamic State.

Saudi Arabia has so far focused its attention on another civil war in the region, the one in Yemen. A Saudi-led coalition is battling Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who captured the capital of Sana'a in January 2015.

State Department reporter Pam Dockins and Pentagon reporter Carla Babbs contributed to this report.