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U.S. reportedly moving toward arming Syrian rebels

WASHINGTON (AP) — Discussions within the Obama administration in favor of providing arms to the Syrian rebels are gaining ground amid new indications that President Bashar Assad's regime may have launched additional chemical weapons attacks, U.S. and other diplomatic officials say.

As the number of suspected attacks grows, U.S. officials said intelligence agencies are seeing signs that Syrian opposition forces may be distancing themselves from the al-Qaida-linked group there — chipping away at one of the key arguments against giving lethal aid to the rebels. Yet, at the same time, the fighters associated with the extremist group are among the most effective against the regime. Assad displayed new confidence, going on the offensive in the hopes of taking advantage of ill will against the extremist group.

Officials insisted Wednesday that no decisions have been made but said arming the rebels is seen as more likely and preferable than any other military option. One U.S. official described a new "reconsideration" within the administration of the military options. The officials, who all spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss publicly the options under consideration, said most U.S. leaders prefer that the Syrians determine their own fate, so arming the opposition is more palatable than direct U.S. intervention.

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