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Iran Press TV

US says will deploy 200 extra forces to Syria's Raqqah

Iran Press TV

Sat Dec 10, 2016 8:55AM

The United States has announced plans to send 200 more troops to Syria to allegedly join operations aimed at retaking the Syrian city of Raqqah from the Daesh terrorist group.

"I can tell you today that the United States will deploy approximately 200 additional US forces in Syria," US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told a security conference in the Bahraini capital, Manama, on Saturday.

They will add to 300 American special forces already operating in Syria which has been fighting foreign-backed militancy for years.

Carter said troops were only about 25 kilometers away from Raqqah, adding they were helping SDF militants who are mainly comprised of Kurdish fighters.

The announcement came a day after Turkey said it was dispatching 300 special troops to Syria to reinforce its US-backed incursion of the Arab country.

The Turkish army said on Friday its troops and militants had seized control of a highway between the key regional towns of al-Bab and Manbij on Friday.

Damascus has already strongly criticized the United States and Turkey for deploying troops to the Syrian soil, saying it amounts to an act of aggression.

The new deployments come at a time of rapidly changing realities on the ground where Syrian troops are tightening the noose around foreign-backed militants.

The Syrian government now controls 93 percent of Aleppo, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Friday, adding troops would continue to liberate the city's east after the removal of civilians is completed.

The US and its allies have been pushing for a halt to military operations in the face of Syrian army advances in Syria.

Western and Middle Eastern backers of militants fighting to topple the Syrian government were meeting in Paris on Saturday to discuss the situation.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and foreign ministers from Europe and their counterparts from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the UAE were likely to renew calls for an end to the onslaught.

Retreating terrorists now control only a pocket of Syria's second city, whose fate is seen as pivotal to the outcome of a nearly six-year-old war that has killed more than 400,000 people.

"My goal in all this is... to get both sides, all of the forces, to the table in Geneva. And that's what we're working on," Kerry said as he arrived for the meeting.

The European Union meanwhile said on Friday it would introduce more sanctions on Syria over the offensive in Aleppo.

"The EU will act swiftly ... with the aim of imposing further restrictive measures against Syria targeting Syrian individuals and entities supporting the regime as long as the repression continues," the bloc's top diplomat Federica Mogherini said.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned the US against easing its alleged arms embargo on militants.

Peskov said US weapons could end up in wrong hands if Washington went ahead with the plan to lift restrictions on arms deliveries to the so-called "moderate" militants.

The warning came a day after the White House said US President Barack Obama had relaxed the so-called Arms Export Control Act for the militants in Syria.

"Certainly, the worst result of this decision would be those weapons, including MANPADs [man-portable anti-air missiles], ending up in the hands of terrorists," Peskov said.

Last year, Washington earmarked almost $500 million to arming and training of the "moderates." It had also slackened its arms embargo against certain militants back in 2013.

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