Coalition Moves To Fund Rebels In Syria

An international coalition supporting the Syrian opposition announced new aid today, including a multimillion dollar fund for opposition fighters. The support for the opposition comes just as Damascus rejected a call to withdraw its troops and begin a cease-fire. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Istanbul.

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An international coalition supporting the Syrian opposition has announced a multimillion-dollar fund for opposition fighters. The ratcheting up of support for the opposition comes as Damascus rejects a call to withdraw its troops and begin a cease-fire. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Istanbul.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Saudi Arabia and Qatar are among the most vocal proponents of arming the rebel Free Syrian Army, which is profoundly outgunned by loyalist forces. Now, they and others will be sending what some fighters say they need just as much: money. News of the Gulf financial support for the Free Syrian Army came as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the Friends of Syria gathering here that the U.S. is also going beyond humanitarian aid for what she called the civilian opposition in Syria.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: Including communications equipment that will help activists organize, evade attacks by the regime, and connect to the outside world.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

KENYON: Outside the meeting site, a few dozen pro-Assad demonstrators sat surrounded by riot police, chanting slogans on behalf of the regime. In Damascus, a spokesman rejected U.N. envoy Kofi Annan's call for an immediate troop withdrawal, casting doubt on his peace proposal. Annan is due to brief the U.N. tomorrow in New York on his efforts so far.

The international community remains divided with Russia and China skipping today's meeting, and so does the Syrian opposition. But analysts say the latest developments push the situation closer to full-on armed conflict. They note that while the cash may be slated for salaries, what it will be used for in large part is to buy weapons on Syria's ever more costly black market. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul.

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