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US President Barack Obama on Monday waived restrictions under the US Arms Export Control Act allowing the deliveries to “select vetted members of the Syrian opposition,” aid that includes equipment to protect against chemical weapons and training to defend against their deployment, White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.
The aid authorized by Obama also includes similar nonlethal equipment and assistance to international organizations and health care providers operating in Syria, Hayden said.
“This action is part of longstanding and ongoing efforts to provide life-saving chemical weapons-related assistance to people in need in Syria,” she said.
The White House said last week that it would continue to provide both nonlethal and military aid to the Syrian opposition seeking to oust Assad, even as Washington and Moscow team up to carry out a Russian plan to place Assad’s chemical stockpile under international control for eventual destruction.
Washington has accused Assad’s government of carrying out an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack that it claims left more than 1,400 dead. Russia, meanwhile, has said that while chemical weapons were deployed in the attack, it is unclear whether government or rebel forces are responsible.
Russian officials have criticized US assistance to the Syrian opposition, saying the aid is emboldening extremist Islamic factions within the rebel forces. The Obama administration, however, says it is filtering out dangerous elements and supporting moderate voices within the opposition.