U.S. Senate Approves Arming, Training Moderate Syrian Rebels

Strong bipartisan congressional support shows Americans united in fight against Islamic State, says Obama.

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Syrian rebels aim during a weapons training exercise outside Idlib, Syria, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012. Credit: AP

REUTERS - U.S. President Barack Obama said on Thursday that strong bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress for the training and arming of moderate Syrian rebels showed Americans were united in the fight against Islamic State militants.

Obama spoke at the White House shortly after final congressional approval of his plan to help the rebels battle the Sunni militant group that has seized areas of Iraq and Syria.

He added: "More than 40 countries, including Arab nations, have now offered assistance as part of this coalition."

The U.S. Senate on Thursday easily approved controversial legislation requested by Obama to allow the training and arming of moderate Syrian rebels in their fight against Islamic State militants.

Senate passage, by a vote of 78-22, came a day after approval by the House of Representatives.

The Senate legislation also temporarily keeps the government running in the fiscal year that starts on October 1 and reauthorizes the Export-Import Bank through June 2015.

The bill now goes to Obama for signing into law.