McCain Had Syria Trip Planned ‘For Weeks, If Not Months’

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has quietly slipped into Syria for a meeting with Syrian rebels.

Spokeswoman Rachael Dean confirms the 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.

Mouaz Mustafa, the executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force, told CBS News that the trip was planned “for weeks, if not months.”

“It’s something the senator has wanted to do for quite some time because he’s pro-active on the subject of the U.S. being more directly involved in Syria and helping to create the necessary changes on the ground to end the conflict,” Mustafa said.

CBS News reports that McCain met with Gen. Salem Idris, the leader of the Syrian rebels, and other leaders of the Free Syrian Army.

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.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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