Syrian activists to call for more aid at US talks

NEW YORK- The United States will unveil more aid to Syrians battling to oust President Bashar al-Assad on Friday, aiming to help a growing refugee crisis and train local leaders inside the war-torn nation.
A group of Syrian activists and organizers from some of the areas liberated by the Syrian opposition will meet with top leaders of about two dozen countries from the "Friends of Syria" grouping to spell out their needs.
"It's important to recognize the courage of these people, but also we need to hear from them first hand about the types of support that they want," a senior State Department official said Thursday.

The talks in New York, hosted by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, will focus on what extra support can be given to the opposition, what the humanitarian needs are and how pressure can be increased on the Assad regime.
"None of this is happening as quickly as we would like, in terms of the regime leaving, of Bashar al-Assad and his clique stepping aside to allow a transition to go forward," the US official said.
"That said the regime is steadily losing ground if you look at the changes on the ground... the regime is definitely slipping militarily."
One of the major concerns is the growing refugee crisis. About one million and 1.5 million people are internally displaced, with a further 300,000 having slipped into neighboring countries, according to UN estimates.
The official revealed that just this week, the US Agency for International Development managed to sneak through enough medical supplies to treat some 27,000 people across the border and into southern Syria, the official said.
US officials say they are also getting appeals from Syrians inside the country to help them with organizing life inside liberated areas.
"We are in regular contact with these groups inside, so we have been looking to increase not only humanitarian assistance... but also how to increase assistance to the Syrian opposition," the official said.
"There is no cell phone service for example in liberated areas. So even just communicating amongst themselves is very difficult."
The official revealed that the Americans have so far supplied some 1,200 pieces of equipment, mainly communications, to the Syrian opposition.
"Mostly off-the-shelf stuff, but sophisticated off-the-shelf stuff. Not quite Radio Shack but close to it," the official quipped, referring to a popular electrical goods store.
"We have worked very hard to make sure that in these places where the regime is targeting civilians, where the killing is atrocious, that the story can be heard."
Other initiatives included helping people to repair fuel lines, or maintain infrastructure with the Syrian regime no longer providing basic services in most areas.

Friday, September 28th 2012

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