WASHINGTON For the first time in the two-year push to topple President Bashar Assad, the United States said Thursday that it will send food and medicine directly to armed Syrian rebels.
But the announcement fell far short of rebel calls for anti-aircraft missiles and the imposition of a no-fly zone, and it left many members of the opposition dissatisfied.
Even a European agreement to amend its arms embargo to allow rebels access to nonlethal military equipment and armored vehicles on condition that they be used only to protect civilians failed to calm their anger.
"Unfortunately, as always, the West's promises are smaller than its actions," said Samir Nashar, a businessman from Aleppo and a founding member of the Syrian Coalition of Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, the umbrella group set up last year at the United States' behest.
"How will armored cars protect us from Scud missiles and barrel bombs?" Nashar asked. Speaking in Rome, where U.S. allies met with Syrian opposition leaders, Secretary of State John Kerry said that the U.S. support should not be taken in isolation.
"Different countries are choosing to do different things," Kerry said.
The meeting included foreign ministers from Turkey, France, Germany, Great Britain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are already believed to be providing weapons and ammunition.
Kerry said the new U.S. aid would go to the Supreme Military Command, the armed wing of the opposition coalition.
The coalition also will receive $60 million in direct U.S. assistance in an attempt to help the group organize itself and appoint a transitional government-in-waiting.