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White House Seeks $500M to Equip, Train Syrian Opposition


FILE - A Free Syrian Army trainer addresses fellow fighters as he conducts a demonstration on how to use anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons at a training camp in the northern countryside of Aleppo, March 31, 2014.

The White House is asking the U.S. Congress for $500 million to equip and train selected members of the armed moderate Syrian opposition.

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Thursday the money will also be used to help defend the Syrian people, stabilize areas under rebel control and meet the threat of terrorism.

Hayden said while there is no military solution to the crisis in Syria, the money would be another step toward helping the Syrian people defend themselves against attacks by the Assad regime.

President Obama had told the graduating class of the West Point military academy last month that the U.S. must push back against extremists who he said are finding safe haven in the chaos in Syria.

The Sunni rebellion in Syria has influenced Sunni extremists in their uprising in Iraq.

In New York Thursday, U.N. humanitarian affairs chief Valerie Amos said the Syrian government has put up bureaucratic obstacles and restrictions on where and when aid can be delivered.

Amos told the Security Council that she cannot describe the frustration of aid workers who have to spend hours negotiating while lives hang in the balance.

She also blamed some rebel groups for attacking and threatening aid workers.

Amos says almost 11 million people in Syria need humanitarian aid.

The Council unanimously passed a resolution in February demanding all parties in Syria grant relief agencies unimpeded access.