ISTANBUL, Turkey — The United States said today that it will double its nonlethal assistance to Syria's opposition as the rebels' top supporters vowed to enhance and expand their backing of the two-year battle to oust President Bashar Assad's regime.
Yet the pledge fell far short of what the opposition Syrian National Coalition had made clear it wanted: weapons and direct military intervention to stop the violence that has killed more than 70,000 people.
Instead, the Obama administration's pledged to provide an additional $123 million in aid, which may include for the first time armored vehicles, body armor, night vision goggles and other defensive military supplies. It was the only tangible, public offer of new international support as the foreign ministers of the 11 main countries supporting the opposition met in a marathon session in Istanbul. They are struggling to find ways to stem the escalating violence.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced the new package of assistance in a written statement at the conclusion of the conference that began Saturday and stretched into early today.
The additional aid brings total nonlethal U.S. assistance to the opposition to $250 million since the fighting began.
Trying to soothe fears that some Europeans have voiced about extremists among the rebel movement, the opposition affirmed its commitment to an inclusive and pluralistic democracy that condemns extremism.
"Our revolution is for the entire Syrian people," opposition leader Moaz al-Khatib told reporters, standing alongside Kerry and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.