WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is clearing the way for the U.S. to send non-lethal assistance to the Syrian opposition to help them prevent the use or proliferation of chemical weapons.

The president's authorization also allows the U.S. to send chemical weapons-related personal protective equipment to international organizations working in Syria. It also allows for the transfer of assistance to local health care providers in Syria to help them treat victims of chemical weapons attacks.

A senior administration official says the U.S. had already started making plans to send the assistance before a chemical weapons attack in Syria on Aug. 21. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss the aid by name and insisted on anonymity.