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Secretary of State John Kerry: Syria urgently needs a political solution

  • U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Susan Ziadeh, left, walks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, second from left, and Ambassador Ibrahim Fakhroo, Qatari Chief of Protocol, on Kerry's arrival in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday, June 22, 2013. Kerry began the overseas trip plunging into two thorny foreign policy problems facing the Obama administration: unrelenting bloodshed in Syria and efforts to talk to the Taliban and find a political resolution to the war in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

    U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Susan Ziadeh, left, walks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, second from left, and Ambassador Ibrahim Fakhroo, Qatari Chief of Protocol, on Kerry's arrival in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday, June 22, 2013. Kerry began the overseas trip plunging into two thorny foreign policy problems facing the Obama administration: unrelenting bloodshed in Syria and efforts to talk to the Taliban and find a political resolution to the war in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, center, walks through the airport with Ambassador Ibrahim Fakhroo, Qatari Chief of Protocol, left, after being greeted on arrival in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday, June 22, 2013. Kerry began an overseas trip plunging into two thorny foreign policy problems facing the Obama administration: unrelenting bloodshed in Syria and efforts to talk to the Taliban and find a political resolution to the war in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, center, walks through the airport with Ambassador Ibrahim Fakhroo, Qatari Chief of Protocol, left, after being greeted on arrival in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday, June 22, 2013. Kerry began an overseas trip plunging into two thorny foreign policy problems facing the Obama administration: unrelenting bloodshed in Syria and efforts to talk to the Taliban and find a political resolution to the war in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, not pictured, is secured in his vehicle on arrival in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday, June 22, 2013. Kerry is expected to attend a meeting of the London 11. The Secretary has begun the overseas trip with two thorny foreign policy problems facing the Obama administration: unrelenting bloodshed in Syria and efforts to talk to the Taliban and find a political resolution to the war in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, not pictured, is secured in his vehicle on arrival in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday, June 22, 2013. Kerry is expected to attend a meeting of the London 11. The Secretary has begun the overseas trip with two thorny foreign policy problems facing the Obama administration: unrelenting bloodshed in Syria and efforts to talk to the Taliban and find a political resolution to the war in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

  • US Secretary of State John Kerry ahead of a meeting in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in central London, Wednesday April 10, 2013. Kerry is meeting in London with Syrian opposition leaders and Russia's top diplomat, a day after saying the U.S. could soon step up aid to rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.  Kerry is in London for a G8 foreign ministers' meeting today and Thursday. (AP Photo/Ben Stansall, pool)

    US Secretary of State John Kerry ahead of a meeting in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in central London, Wednesday April 10, 2013. Kerry is meeting in London with Syrian opposition leaders and Russia's top diplomat, a day after saying the U.S. could soon step up aid to rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime. Kerry is in London for a G8 foreign ministers' meeting today and Thursday. (AP Photo/Ben Stansall, pool)

  • U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Susan Ziadeh, left, walks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, second from left, and Ambassador Ibrahim Fakhroo, Qatari Chief of Protocol, on Kerry's arrival in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday, June 22, 2013. Kerry began the overseas trip plunging into two thorny foreign policy problems facing the Obama administration: unrelenting bloodshed in Syria and efforts to talk to the Taliban and find a political resolution to the war in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, center, walks through the airport with Ambassador Ibrahim Fakhroo, Qatari Chief of Protocol, left, after being greeted on arrival in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday, June 22, 2013. Kerry began an overseas trip plunging into two thorny foreign policy problems facing the Obama administration: unrelenting bloodshed in Syria and efforts to talk to the Taliban and find a political resolution to the war in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)
  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, not pictured, is secured in his vehicle on arrival in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday, June 22, 2013. Kerry is expected to attend a meeting of the London 11. The Secretary has begun the overseas trip with two thorny foreign policy problems facing the Obama administration: unrelenting bloodshed in Syria and efforts to talk to the Taliban and find a political resolution to the war in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)
  • US Secretary of State John Kerry ahead of a meeting in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in central London, Wednesday April 10, 2013. Kerry is meeting in London with Syrian opposition leaders and Russia's top diplomat, a day after saying the U.S. could soon step up aid to rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.  Kerry is in London for a G8 foreign ministers' meeting today and Thursday. (AP Photo/Ben Stansall, pool)

Unless the bloodshed in Syria stops, the region could descend into a chaotic sectarian conflict, Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday, as he called for an urgent political resolution to the war that has dragged on for two years and claimed 93,000 lives.

The top U.S. diplomat and his counterparts from 10 Arab and European nations agreed at a day long meeting in Qatar to step up military and other assistance to the Syrian rebels. But Kerry would not disclose details of the aid, saying only that it would rebalance the fight between the rebels and President Bashar Assad’s better-equipped forces that are increasingly backed by Iranian and Hezbollah fighters.

“The continued bloodshed at the hands of the Assad regime and the increasing involvement of Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah, threaten the very prospects of a political settlement and of peace,” Kerry said, adding that the United States and other nations are not backing the rebels to seek a military victory in Syria.

“We do so to . . . find a political settlement,” he said. “Reliable civilian governance and a stronger and more effective armed opposition will better enable the opposition to be able to provide the counterweight to the initiative of Assad to reach out across borders . . . to bring Iranians and to bring Hezbollah – again, a terrorist organization – to the table.”

Rebels said they have already received new weapons from allied countries – but not the U.S. – that they claim will help them to shift the balance of power on the ground where regime forces have scored recent military victories. Experts and activists said the new weapons include anti-tank missiles and small quantities of anti-aircraft missiles.

“Our information from Doha says that five countries have decided to start arming us immediately, and four other countries will give us logistical and technical support and, at a later stage, arm the Free Syrian Army,” a spokesman for the opposition fighters, Loay AlMikdad, said in an interview with Qatar’s Al-Jazeera TV. He said the nations were both Arab and non-Arab, but he would not elaborate.

It was Kerry’s first meeting with his counterparts about aid to the Syrian rebels since President Obama announced that the U.S. would send lethal aid to the opposition despite concern that the weapons could fall into the hands of Islamic extremists in Syria.

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