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US vows $60mn in 'non-lethal' aid to Syria rebels

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that Washington would provide $60 million in "non-lethal" assistance to support the Syrian political opposition against President Bashar al-Assad.

Speaking after talks between foreign officials and the opposition in Rome, Kerry also said Washington would for the first time provide direct assistance to rebel forces in Syria in the form of food and medical assistance.

"The US will be providing an additional $60 million in non-lethal assistance to support the efforts of the Syrian opposition coalition over the coming months," Kerry said.

"We will be sending medical supplies and food to the (rebel) Supreme Military Council, so there will be direct assistance," he added.

"All Syrians... must know that they can have a future," he said.

A State Department official said the $60 million in aid would be used "particularly to enable the (opposition) to help local councils and communities in liberated areas in Syria" to provide basic goods and services and "fulfil administrative functions including security, sanitation and education services."

The official said the new money was in addition to $50 million in non-lethal support already provided by the US to help Syrian opposition activists, including with communications equipment.

Asked about congressional approval of the funding, Kerry told journalists he was "very confident for rapid delivery".

He said the goal was to give a boost to the opposition and show Assad that he could not use violence to resolve the conflict.

"I am absolutely confident that this totality of efforts will have an impact on the opposition," Kerry said. "This is the beginning of the process that will change (Assad's) calculation."

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