US pledges 123-million-dollar more aid to Syria opposition

Politics Materials 21 April 2013 05:01 (UTC +04:00)
The United States Sunday pledged an additional 123 million dollars in non-lethal assistance to Syrian opposition
US pledges 123-million-dollar more aid to Syria opposition

The United States Sunday pledged an additional 123 million dollars in non-lethal assistance to Syrian rebels, dpa reported.

US Secretary of state John Kerry unveiled the new assistance at a press conference in the Turkish city of Istanbul following a meeting of the "Friends of Syria" grouping.

He added that the 11-member grouping was committed to a peaceful transition in Syria.

Kerry accused the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of using "ballistic missiles" against civilians.

The opposition has repeatedly called on key international backers to provide heavy weaponry to the rebels fighting to oust al-Assad.

The Syrian opposition called at the Istanbul gathering for "surgical airstrikes" to destroy the missile arsenal of al-Assad's troops.

"We call for immediate action to disable the ability of al-Assad's use of chemical weapons and ballistic missiles through surgical strikes on sites that are firing rockets on the Syrian citizens," the opposition Syrian National Coalition said.

"It is the moral imperative of the international community, led by the Friends of Syria, to take specific, precise and immediate action to protect Syrian civilians from the use of ballistic missiles and chemical weapons," it added in a statement.

Kerry had met with the head of the Syrian National Coalition Moaz al-Khatib before the official start of the conference.

The "Friends of Syria" include the United States, European nations and Arab countries.

Britain and France are pushing to modify the European Union's arms embargo on Syria to allow arming opposition forces. Germany has expressed concerns that the move would lead to further bloodshed.

"The new democratic Syria has to be a country where all population groups and religions have a place," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told the Istanbul meeting.

The EU embargo is due to expire by the end of May unless it is extended or renewed.

In Syria, government troops and rebels fought in a strategic area in the central Homs province, reported activists and state media. They gave no casualty figures.

Five shells fired from Syria slammed into the north-eastern Lebanese district of Hermel, causing only damage, a Lebanese security source said.

Syrian authorities have recently threatened to attack Lebanese territories if insurgents continue to infiltrate the country from Lebanon.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Jordanians staged an anti-Syrian refugee rally to protest against clashes in the country's largest refugee camp.

At the two-hour rally, some 200 residents of the Jordanian border city of Mafraq blocked off the entrance to the Zaatari refugee camp, demanding authorities deport Syrians back to their homeland.

The protesters also called on authorities to close the Zaatari camp - home to some 150,00 Syrians - chanting "leave, leave Syrian thugs," eyewitnesses said.

The protest came a day after violent clashes in the camp left some 20 Syrians and 10 Jordanian policemen injured, according to security sources.

The clashes erupted between camp residents and security personnel after authorities arrested a group of five Syrians attempting to flee the enclosed camp, said the sources.

The clashes highlighted rising tensions between Jordanians and Syrians in the border city, which has received the bulk of the some 500,000 Syrians who have fled to the country since March 2011.