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Friday, July 27, 2012

Obama cautiously moves to help Syrian rebels

(Reuters) - In his first year in office, U.S. President Barack Obama sent a letter to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seeking a new start to a long-strained relationship.

In his third year, Obama demanded that Assad step down.

Now, nearing the end of his first term, with a presidential election looming in November, Obama is moving cautiously toward greater support for Syrian rebels, as international diplomatic efforts that had been Obama's first preference falter.

Reuters has learned that the White House has crafted a presidential directive, called a "finding," that would authorize greater covert assistance for the rebels, while still stopping short of arming them.

It is not clear whether Obama has signed the document, and U.S. officials declined to comment on the finding, which is a highly classified authorization for covert activity.

But in recent days, the Obama administration has signaled publicly it plans more help for the rebels.

"I have to say that we are also increasing our efforts to assist the opposition," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday. Read More