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Obama signs order supporting rebels

US President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorising US support for Syrian rebels seeking to overthrow the Assad government, sources familiar with the matter have told Reuters.

world Updated: Aug 03, 2012 00:56 IST

US President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorising US support for Syrian rebels seeking to overthrow the Assad government, sources familiar with the matter have told Reuters.

Obama's order, approved earlier this year and known as an intelligence finding broadly permits the CIA and other US agencies to provide support that could help the rebels oust President Bashar al-Assad.

This and other developments point to growing support for Assad's armed opponents - which has intensified following last month's failure by the UN security council to agree on tougher sanctions against the Damascus government.

The White House is for now apparently stopping short of arming the rebels directly, even though some US allies are.

But US and European officials have said that there have been noticeable improvements in the coherence and effectiveness of Syrian rebel groups in the past few weeks. That represents a significant change in assessments of the rebels by western officials, who previously characterised Assad's opponents as a disorganised, chaotic, rabble.

Precisely when Obama signed the secret intelligence authorisation, an action not previously reported, could not be determined.

The full extent of support that agencies like the CIA might be providing also is unclear.