Friday, May 25, 2018

U.S. aims to rally Syrian opposition with new aid

NEW YORK — The Obama administration moved Friday to rally Syria's opposition with pledges of $45 million in new nonlethal and humanitarian assistance as the administration and other world leaders lamented the failure of diplomatic efforts to push Syrian President Bashar Assad from power.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States would contribute an additional $15 million in nonlethal gear — mostly communications equipment — to the civilian opposition trying to oust Assad as well as $30 million in new humanitarian assistance to help those affected by the continuing violence.

She also delivered a new, stark warning to Iran that it must stop arming and supporting the Assad regime.

"It is no secret that our attempts to move forward at the U.N. Security Council have been blocked repeatedly, but the United States is not waiting," Clinton said as she announced the new aid at a gathering of the Friends of Syria group that she hosted at a New York hotel on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. She and other foreign ministers from the group met with nine Syrian opposition figures, including several who traveled from Syria to attend Friday's session, to discuss strategy.

With U.N. action blocked by Russia and China, Clinton said the rest of the world must support the Syrian opposition. She also said it was urgent that the fractured foes of the regime unite around plans for a political transition that could put an end to more than three decades of Assad family rule. Activists say the current 18-month long conflict has led to more than 30,000 deaths.

The new U.S. humanitarian assistance — which brings America's total humanitarian contribution to more than $130 million since the crisis began — will include food, water, blankets and medical services to victims of the violence. U.S. officials said on Thursday that an earlier shipment of medical goods had just arrived in southern Syria. They would not provide details of how the aid made it into Syrian territory.

Clinton's announcement came as fighting intensified in Syria's largest city, Aleppo, with the most widespread battles reported in three months in the city of 3 million people as rebel forces launched a new offensive against Assad.

The military battle for control of the city and the country has been locked in a stalemate.

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