Central Intelligence Agency officers, in covert operations in southern Turkey, are helping steer arms to opposition fighters to fight the Syrian government, The New York Times reported Thursday, quoting American officials and Arab intelligence officers, Xinhua reported.
"The weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons, are being funneled mostly across the Turkish border by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria's Muslim Brotherhood and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar," the paper said.
The CIA officers, small in number, have been in southern Turkey for several weeks, "in part to help keep weapons out of the hands of fighters allied with al-Qaida or other terrorist groups," the report said.
The Obama administration has said it is not providing arms to the opposition fighters in Syria, but is supplying non-lethal such as medical supplies and communications equipment.
"By helping to vet rebel groups, American intelligence operatives in Turkey hope to learn more about a growing, changing opposition network inside of Syria and to establish new ties," the report said.
"CIA officers are there and they are trying to make new sources and recruit people," one Arab intelligence official was quoted as saying.
American officials and retired CIA officials said the administration was also weighing additional assistance such as providing satellite imagery and other detailed intelligence on Syrian troop locations and movements.
In addition, the administration is considering whether to help the opposition set up a rudimentary intelligence service.
Washington and its Western allies want to see a political transition in Syria with the departure of President Bashar al-Assad.
Russia and China, meanwhile, call for a negotiated settlement to the 15-month-old violence in the Middle East country, voicing opposition to any forced regime change by outside interference.