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U.S. and allies seek to boost Syrian opposition

European Union unlikely to act before May, and fresh U.S. help certain to fall short.

April 21. 2013 1:00AM

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ISTANBUL — Foreign ministers from the main supporters of the rebels trying to topple the Syrian government worked Saturday to increase pressure on President Bashar Assad, but the opposition demanded direct military involvement.

The United States prepared a major boost in nonlethal military aid while European nations considered changes to an arms embargo that would allow arms transfers to the Syrian opposition.

But European Union action seemed unlikely before May, and the fresh U.S. help was certain to fall short of the strongest demands from the Syrian National Congress: drone strikes to disable Assad’s chemical weapon and missile capability; a no-fly zone requiring significant military operations; and a U.N. resolution that condemns Assad for attacks on Syrians.

“The technical ability to take specific action to prevent the human tragedy and suffering of innocent civilians, mostly women and children, is available in the form of specific intelligence and equipment,” the group said in a statement before the conference ended.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry planned to announce that the Obama administration was ready to provide up to $130 million in supplies, which could include body armor, armored vehicles, night vision goggles and advanced communications equipment, officials said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss Kerry’s announcement.

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