President Barack Obama will meet with Syrian opposition leader Ahmad Jarba during his current visit to Washington, the White House said Tuesday.
Jarba is president of the Syrian National Coalition. Last week the United States formally recognized the coalition as a diplomatic foreign mission and announced a $27 million increase in assistance to help the rebels oust Syrian President Bashar as-Assad.
Should the United States provide more weapons to Syrian rebels? Tony Badran, research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, answered this and more on CBN Newswatch, May 13.
The move comes as Syrian government forces make gains on the battlefield. In just the last week rebels surrendered the city of Homs, a long-time stronghold to the Syrian government.
President Assad is also preparing for victory in a June 3 presidential election, one the United States has dismissed as phony and not credible.
On Tuesday, a leading human rights group, Human Rights Watch, announced that it has "strong evidence" Syria used chemical weapons on rebel-held areas last month.
The group said Assad likely used chlorine gas on three towns in northern Syria in mid-April. It believes the Syrian army embedded chlorine canisters into crude explosive-laden barrels and then used helicopters to drop them on the towns.
In late April the United Nation's chemical watchdog said it planned investigate the chlorine claims. HRW said the attacks killed at least 11 people and injured hundreds.
Last year, a chemical attack in the suburbs of Damascus killed hundreds of civilians.
The world is waiting for Syria to give up the last of its chemical weapons agents. A Danish-Norwegian flotilla is sitting off the coast of Cyprus to pick up the last batch of chemicals, about 8 percent of Syria's stockpile.
A June 30 deadline looms after Syria already missed an April 27 deadline set by the United Nations.
Human rights activists believe the Syrian conflict has already killed 150,000 people. Some 2.5 million Syrians have fled abroad and 9 million people inside the country need help, including 3.5 million who have no access to essential goods and services.