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Obama Clears Way for Chemical Weapons Aid to Syria

Updated: Monday, September 16 2013, 05:22 PM EDT

President Barack Obama is clearing the way for the U.S. to send non-lethal assistance to the Syrian opposition to help them prevent the use or proliferation of chemical weapons.

The president's authorization also allows the U.S. to send chemical weapons-related personal protective equipment to international organizations working in Syria. It also allows for the transfer of assistance to local health care providers in Syria to help them treat victims of chemical weapons attacks.

A senior administration official says the U.S. had already started making plans to send the assistance before a chemical weapons attack in Syria on Aug. 21.  The official was not authorized to publicly discuss the aid by name and insisted on anonymity.

AP-WF-09-16-13 2042GMT

Obama Clears Way for Chemical Weapons Aid to Syria

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The Syrian civil war, (also known as the Syrian uprising or Syrian crisis) is an ongoing armed conflict in Syria between forces loyal to the Ba'ath government and those seeking to oust it. A part of the larger Middle Eastern protest movement known as the Arab Spring, the conflict began March 15th, 2011 with local demonstrations that grew in scope to become nationwide by April 2011.

Protesters demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has held the presidency in Syria since 1971, as well as the end of Ba'ath Party rule, which began in 1963.

The Syrian Army was deployed in April of 2011 to stop the uprising, and soldiers fired on demonstrators across the country. After months of cities and neighborhoods being cut-off by the Army the protests evolved into an armed rebellion.

The Arab League, United States, European Union, and other countries condemned the use of violence against the protesters. The Arab League suspended Syria's membership as a result of the government's response to the crisis, but granted the Syrian National Coalition, a coalition of Syrian political opposition groups, Syria's seat on 6 March 2013.

According to the UN, about 4 million Syrians have been displaced within the country and 2 million have fled to other countries.

Syrian government supporters include Russia and Iran, while Qatar and Saudi Arabia are providing material and weapons to the rebels.

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