US President Barack Obama has authorised supply of non-lethal warfare equipment to help the Syrian rebel forces defend against a potential chemical attack, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden has revealed.

Hayden said in a statement that Obama has signed a presidential determination waiving certain restrictions under the Arms Export Control Act, which enables US Government to deliver or license certain non-lethal assistance inside or related to Syria.

”This action is part of long-standing and ongoing efforts to provide life-saving chemical weapons-related assistance to people in need in Syria,” Hayden said.

Equipment include chemical weapons-related personal protective equipment to international organisations, including the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and chemical weapons-related life-saving assistance for bodies implementing Department of State or US Agency for International Development’s programme to augment Syrian health care providers’ ability to prepare for and respond to any use of chemical weapons.

"Washington will supply defensive chemical weapons-related training and personal protective equipment to select vetted members of the Syrian opposition."

Washington will also supply defensive chemical weapons-related training and personal protective equipment to select vetted members of the Syrian opposition, including the Supreme Military Council, to defend against the chemical weapons use, according to Hayden.

The assistance comes even as US and Russia work out a plan to secure the Syrian chemical stockpile and subsequently place it under international control for eventual destruction.

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Syria became a full member of the chemical weapons convention (CWC) last week as part of Russia’s plan to avoid US military strikes against the country.

The US, along with other western countries, had accused Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government of carrying out a chemical weapons attack near Damascus, on 21 August, that is claimed to have left more than 1,400 people dead, including a large number of children.

Image: US President Barack Obama has authorised supply of non-lethal, chemical warfare equipment to Syrian opposition forces. Photo: courtesy of Pete Souza.

Defence Technology