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U.S. announces additional $30 mln in Syrian humanitarian aid

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, speaks, while U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, left, listens as they meet with Australian conterparts during the annual Australia-US Ministerial Consultations at the State Reception Centre in Kings Park, Perth, Australia, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Saul Loeb, Pool)

PERTH, Australia: The United States announced an extra $30 million in aid to those affected by the war in Syria on Wednesday and called the formation of a new opposition coalition an important step that would help Washington better target its help.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the announcement after talks in Perth involving her Australian counterpart Bob Carr and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and his Australian counterpart, Stephen Smith.

But the United States stopped short of offering full recognition of the Syrian opposition or offering arms.

"We agreed today that the formation of the new Syrian opposition coalition is an important step forward and will help the international community better target our assistance where it is needed most," Clinton told a news conference.

"Today, I am pleased to announce that the United States is providing an additional $30 million in humanitarian assistance to help get much-needed food to hungry people inside Syria and to refugees who have fled to Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq," Clinton said.

The aid would be provided through the World Food Program, which is supplying food aid to more than one million people in Syria and nearly 400,000 refugees in neighboring countries. The additional funds brought U.S. humanitarian assistance to those affected by the Syrian crisis to nearly $200 million, she said

Twenty months into their bloody uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, fragmented Syrian opposition groups struck a deal in Qatar on Sunday to form a coalition led by Damascus preacher Mouaz Alkhatib, who appealed for international recognition.

France became the first European power to recognise Syria's new opposition coalition as the sole representative of its people and said on Tuesday it would look into arming rebels against President Bashar al-Assad once they form a government.

Six Gulf Arab states recognized the coalition on Monday.

The United States while welcoming the formation of the new coalition and calling it a legitimate representative of the Syrian people, has stopped short of full recognition or providing rebels with arms.

Washington says it wants to see how the coalition organizes itself and whether it proves to be an effective representative.

While the United States says it is not providing arms to internal opponents of Assad and is limiting its aid to non-lethal humanitarian aids, it concedes that some of its allies are providing lethal assistance - a fact that Assad's chief backer Russia says shows western powers are intent on determining Syria's future.

Russia and China have blocked three U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at increasing pressure on the Assad government, leading the United States and its allies to say they could move beyond U.N. structures for their next steps.

 

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