(CNN) – Independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut called Sunday for the United States to provide direct assistance to the Syrian people in their struggle to oust President Bashar al-Assad.
"It's time to try to help the brave Syrian freedom fighters to carry out a fair fight," he said on CNN's "State of the Union."
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U.N. officials estimate 6,000 people have died since protests seeking political reforms in Syria began nearly a year ago.
So far, the Obama administration has recalled the U.S. ambassador to Syria and imposed sanctions, while pushing unsuccessfully for a U.N. Security Council resolution against the Assad regime.
However, it has resisted calls by veteran Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and some Republican presidential candidates to take a larger role in backing the Syrian opposition movement.
Lieberman, who caucuses with the Democrats and chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, argued that any U.S. effort must be part of an international coalition, similar to the nation's involvement in Libya last year.
He also suggested that U.S. assistance first come through medical help, then later through training, communications equipment, and ultimately, weapons.
The United States has major security interests in aiding Syria, which gets support from Iran, Lieberman said.
Pointing to the recent veto by Russia and China of a U.N. Security Council resolution aimed at halting the violence, Lieberman said other countries and coalitions must get involved.
"America ought to take the position that every option is on the table except doing nothing, because doing nothing means hundreds of more Syrians are killed and it means that Iran, which continues to give Assad the weapons with which he's killing his own people, will achieve a strategic victory over us," Lieberman told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.
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