WASHINGTON – The United States is willing to step up its assistance to the Syrian rebels trying to topple President Bashar Assad's
US Secretary of State John Kerry
urged Syria's opposition on Monday to attend a planned international meeting in Rome this week, saying that President Barack Obama
was evaluating further steps required in order to help protect Syrian civilians.
"Today we were discussing various options and I'm not going to go into what they may or not be at this point in time," he told reporters on a visit to London where he met British officials.
"I want our friends in the Syrian opposition council to know we are not coming to Rome simply to talk. We're coming to Rome to make the decision about next steps and perhaps even other options that may or not be discussed further after that."
The administration, Kerry added, has been considering new steps to increase support for the Syrian opposition
and hasten Assad's departure.
"We are determined that the Syrian opposition is not going to be dangling in the wind wondering where the support is or if it’s coming," Kerry said. "And we are determined to change the calculation on the ground for President Assad."
The Syrian opposition said that it might boycott the Rome conference,
in protest of what it sees as lacking help from the West.
Both US Vice President Joe Biden
and Kerry urged Syrian opposition leader Moaz al-Khatib to attend it, saying the opportunity was too vital to miss.
On Monday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem
said that "Syrian authorities are ready for a dialogue with anyone who's willing, even with those who carry arms."
It was the first time that a high-ranking Syrian official signaled that the regime in open to negotiations with the rebels.