John McCain makes trip to Syria to visit rebels

WASHINGTON (AP) - Sen. John McCain quietly slipped into Syria for a meeting with Syrian rebels on Monday.

Spokeswoman Rachael Dean confirms the Arizona Republican made the visit. She declined further comment about the trip.

The visit took place amid meetings in Paris involving efforts to secure participation of Syria's fractured opposition in an international peace conference in Geneva.

Two years of violence in Syria has killed more than 70,000 people. President Barack Obama has demanded that Syrian President Bashar Assad leave power, while Russia has stood by Syria, its closest ally in the Arab world.

McCain has been a leading proponent of arming the rebels and other aggressive military steps against the Assad regime. He has criticized Obama administration policy there while stopping short of backing U.S. ground troops in Syria.

The White House did not respond to a request from The Associated Press for comment.

Last Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to provide weapons to rebels in Syria, as well as military training to vetted rebel groups and sanctions against anyone who sells oil or transfers arms to the Assad regime. McCain is a member of the committee.

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