UK & World News

  • 28 February 2013, 12:40

US Pledges 40m Aid To Syria's Opposition

US Secretary of State John Kerry promises $60m (40m) in assistance to the Syrian opposition for 'non-lethal' aid.

The money will, for the first time, provide aid such as food and medical supplies to rebels fighting to oust Syria's President Bashar al Assad.

Mr Kerry announced the new support and the US policy shift from Rome where he is at an international conference on Syria.

The decision, he said, was aimed at increasing the pressure on President Assad to step down and pave the way for a democratic transition and also to help the opposition govern newly liberated areas of Syria and blunt the influence of extremists.

"No nation, no people should live in fear of their so-called leaders," Mr Kerry said. The President was "out of time and must be out of power".

"For more than a year, the United States and our partners have called on Assad to heed the voice of the Syrian people and to halt his war machine," the US Secretary of State said. "Instead, what we have seen is his brutality increase.

"The United States' decision to take further steps now is the result of the brutality of superior armed force propped up by foreign fighters from Iran and Hezbollah."

Washington has already provided 253m in humanitarian aid to Syria for its people and 56m in communications equipment, medical supplies and other non-lethal assistance to Syria's political opposition.

But, until now, no US dollars or provisions have gone directly to rebel fighters, reflecting concerns about forces that have allied themselves with more radical Islamic elements since Mr Assad's initial crackdown on peaceful protesters in March 2011.

"Given the stakes, the (US) President will now extend food and medical supplies to the Syrian opposition, including the Supreme Military Council," Mr Kerry explained.

The US is to send technical advisers to the Syrian National Coalition offices in Cairo to oversee and help them spend the money for good governance and rule of law.

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