US Pledges Direct Aid to Syrian Rebels

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WASHINGTON: The United States said it would for the first time provide direct aid to Syrian rebels as well as $60 million in extra assistance to the political opposition.

After talks with European and Arab partners and the opposition National Coalition in Rome, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States would provide aid to fighters directly.

Coalition chief Ahmed Moaz Al Khatib, who stood beside Kerry as he made the announcement, expressed disappointment, suggesting the West was overly focused on the presence of militants among rebels.

Kerry said that, “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. Instead, what we have seen is his brutality increase.”

The goal was to give the opposition the means to control areas it has seized from the regime, to prove to Assad he can’t “shoot his way out” of the conflict.

Kerry said the $60 million would strengthen the Coalition’s organisational capacity, and help war-torn communities with respect to sanitation, food delivery, public order, education and medical care.

“The stakes are really high. And we can’t risk letting this country, in the heart of the Middle East, be destroyed by vicious autocrats or hijacked by the extremists.

In supporting the Coalition and the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), “we reject both of those choices, and we stand with those Syrians fighting for the right to choose dignity and democracy and justice. That’s our battle.”

Soon after Kerry’s announcement, the Coalition indefinitely postponed a meeting that was to have been held in Istanbul on Saturday to elect a premier and government for “liberated areas” of Syria. Agencies

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