Nightly News   |  February 28, 2013

Britain, France may provide military aid to Syrian rebels

The U.S. has pledged $60 million in non-lethal aid to the Syrian rebels, leaving the Syrian opposition privately disappointed that they would not be receiving weapons.  The U.S. remains concerned that weapons could fall into the wrong hands, but Britain and France are expected to provide military equipment. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

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>>> now to the big news we first reported here last night. a major policy shift from the white house , which will for the first time provide direct aid to the syrian rebels fighting the assad regime. we learned today it's not the weapons they really want. our report tonight from our chief foreign affairs correspondent, andrea mitchell .

>> reporter: meeting for the first time today, the new secretary of state and the opposition leader , the u.s. hopes can lead a coalition to oust bashir al assad .

>> the simple fact is, assad cannot shoot his way out of this.

>> reporter: while the rebels have been gaining on damascus, they are still outgunned by the regime's air power , including a devastating scud attack on aleppo last friday. today, the opposition leaders spoke directly to assad .

>> translator: i'm saying here and now bashir assad , you have to behave for once as a human being . stop killing and massacring these people, arresting and torturing their children.

>> reporter: the white house still won't provide weapons, fearing they could fall into the hands to more radical elements. but britain and france are expected to fill the gaps with military equipment . and u.s. officials don't deny a "new york times" report that the u.s. is already secretly training small units of rebel fighters and a military base in the region.

>> we can't risk letting this country in the heart of the middle east be destroyed by vicious uh-oh autoaccurates.

>> reporter: they say there needs to be a lot more did you know.

>> pummelling civilian neighbors from the air. another possible down the road alternative here is a no flight zone .

>> reporter: but there are risks.

>> there are a lot of different groups there, and some of those groups, you do not want to be giving weapons to or ammunition to.

>> reporter: privately, the syrian opposition is not happy with what it got today. but hopes this is a sign of more to come. even if the white house tries to avoid getting involved too deeply in another civil war . andrea mitchell , nbc news, washington.