McCain: Rebels Fighting Assad Feel Abandoned By U.S.

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File photo of Sen. John McCain. (Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

Two reporters were caught on a hot microphone mocking Sen. John McCain prior to Thursday’s press conference on the Iraq crisis, the two are heard joking whether anyone had “checked on” McCain after Gen. David Petraeus showed opposition to military action. (Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. John McCain says the cause of rebels fighting Syria’s President Bashar Assad has been obscured in the rapid-fire military and diplomatic events following a chemical weapons attack near Damascus.

McCain says, quote, “I feel very badly for my friends in the Free Syrian Army today.”

The Arizona Republican tells MSNBC he’s not against negotiating to defuse the chemical weapons issue. But McCain also argues, “There’s nothing that will drive Syrians more into the hands of extremists than to feel they have been abandoned by the West.”

One of the persistent questions about U.S. policy in war-ravaged Syria is to what extent the terrorist network al-Qaida is involved in the efforts to end Assad’s rule. McCain said President Barack Obama should have acted more forcefully against Assad many months ago.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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