By CNN's Kevin Liptak
The Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee offered legislation Monday that would allow the United States to provide lethal weapons to the Syrian opposition, a step President Barack Obama has yet to publically endorse.
Sen. Robert Menendez's bill would allow U.S.-provided arms, military training and supplies to go to groups that have been vetted and cleared, and establish a $250 million fund to help support a political transition in Syria, where a civil war has been waged for over 2 years.
The bill comes amid reports that chemical weapons have been used in the country. The White House notified lawmakers in April that the United States had established, with "varying degrees of confidence," that a sarin gas attack had taken place in Syria. But over the weekend a U.N. official said evidence points to the use of the deadly nerve agent by Syrian rebel forces, not the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. A spokesman for the Rebel Free Syrian Army disputed those claims.
Menendez, along with a group of other lawmakers, has pushed for greater U.S. involvement in Syria since before the reports of chemical weapons emerged.FULL STORY
By Jill Dougherty, CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent
Secretary of State John Kerry departed for Russia on Monday, as the conflict in Syria heads into a new and potentially more dangerous phase, and the Obama administration tries to pin down who used chemical weapons.
Carla Del Ponte, a member of the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said Monday there are "strong suspicions... if not yet, let's say, indisputable proof" that sarin gas was used in Syria by opposition forces, rather than by the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
The U.N. commission later issued a statement saying it "has not reached conclusive findings as to the use of chemical weapons in Syria by any parties to the conflict."