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Friends of Syria recognize opposition, commit millions

Syrian National Council pledges to pay military leaders of Free Syrian Army.

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A President Bashar Al-Assad supporter kisses his portrait on April 1, 2012, outside the Istanbul Congress Center where the Friends of Syria conference was opening in Turkey. (BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

The United States pledged $12 million to Syrian rebels as international leaders officially recognized the Syrian National Council in its fight against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, news services reported today.

At the “Friends of Syria” conference in Istanbul, the US and 82 other nations pledged millions of dollars and communications equipment to Syrian rebels, who may begin receiving payments from the council, according to CNN.

SNC chief Burhan Ghalioun urged the gathering in Istanbul to continue supporting the yearlong uprising against Assad, which has left thousands dead.

“You are watching the tragic scenes coming from Syria,” he said, according to the network. “The Syrian regime is benefiting from the hesitance of the international community and its division, by tiding up its siege on the cities, displacing its residents, and shelling its neighborhoods.”

Friends of Syria said its members “support for legitimate measures taken by the Syrian population to protect themselves,” CNN said.

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Ghalioun also committed to paying salaries to military personnel of the Free Syrian Army.

The US nearly doubled its commitment to Syria with a $12 million pledge in non-military aid, The Associated Press said.

US Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton also warned Assad he must begin to show signs of accepting UN envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan, the AP said.

Annan was to deliver an update on Monday about the plan.

“If Assad continues as he has, to fail to end the violence, to institute a cease-fire, to withdraw his troops from the areas he has been battering ... then it's unlikely he is going to ever agree,” she said, “because it is a clear signal that he wants to wait to see if he has totally suppressed the opposition. I think he would be mistaken to believe that. My reading is that the opposition is gaining in intensity, not losing.”

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The political agreements came without Russia, China or Iran in attendance, Reuters said. There were also reports of 70 deaths in fighting on Sunday.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters after the conference that Assad must prove he’s willing to stop the violence.

“We will not let the Syrian regime misuse another opportunity, which is the last chance for the situation in Syria,” he said.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/120401/friends-syria-recognize-opposition-commit-millions