Turkey Hosts 'Friends Of Syria' Conference

Another international conference is being held in Istanbul Sunday, with envoys from dozens of Western and Muslim nations attending. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports that in addition to renewing their call for a halt to Syria's bloody crackdown on dissent, the conferees are also expected to push the disparate opposition groups toward greater unity.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Syria has rejected a call by U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan to pull its tanks and troops out of Syrian towns and cities. With no action by Syria on a ceasefire, scores of countries attended a Friends of Syria meeting today in Turkey. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Istanbul that more support is being promised to the opposition, but that support has limits.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Syria's intentions regarding a ceasefire were clear from the rising death toll since the government accepted the peace proposal, and now it's been confirmed. Foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Maqdissi was quoted by the official news agency as saying a troop withdrawal could come only when any zone returns to normal life. With the peace proposal stalled, officials at the Friends of Syria meeting in Istanbul continued their halting efforts to increase support to the vastly overmatched opposition. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived at the meeting armed with more humanitarian aid and other measures that suggest this conflict is likely to continue for some time. The U.S. is backing training for Syrians in documenting war crimes and atrocities in order to hold officials to account at some future date. And a sanctions working group will share information on those assisting the Syrian regime. But when Burhan Ghalioun, head of the opposition Syrian National Council, addressed the gathering, he said the dead, the wounded, the displaced orphans of Syria deserve better from the international community.

BURHAN GHALIOUN: (Through Translator) Yes, it's imperative we have security corridors. Yes, we need a more robust Free Syrian Army to protect the people. It's the time to move from words to actions.

KENYON: At a private meeting with the SNC later, Clinton said until recently, disorganization among the opposition made it hard to know how to help. Meanwhile, opposition activists are reporting fresh fatalities as the military crackdown continues. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul.

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