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US senators meet Gulf royals to discuss Syrian rebels

US senators led by John McCain held separate weekend meetings with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Salman and Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to co-ordinate backing for Syrian opposition forces.

Mr McCain said that the US delegation had met Saudi Arabia’s training and equipment programme commander and Ahmed al-Jarba, whom he identified as president of the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition even though he resigned last July.

Their visits to the most notorious backers of the extremist forces in Syria followed the Pentagon’s statement that it will send 1,000 military personnel to Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to help train politically vetted rebels.

Damascus reported that 2,000 civilians, including over 1,000 children and 350 surrendering fighters, had fled opposition-held areas to the east of the capital.

It also confirmed a claim by the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front that its forces had shot down a cargo plane near the Duhour air base on Friday evening.

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