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Paris urges funding for Syrian opposition
Associated Press
France's Foreign minister Laurent Fabius gives a press conference on January 14, 2013 in Paris. AFP PHOTO / PATRICK KOVARIK
France's Foreign minister Laurent Fabius gives a press conference on January 14, 2013 in Paris. AFP PHOTO / PATRICK KOVARIK
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PARIS: France pleaded on Monday for countries to keep their promises of funding and other aid to the Syrian opposition or risk compromising the legitimacy of the coalition in the eyes of the people fighting the regime of Bashar Assad.

"We have to give the Syrian people a clear signal: we are at your side," said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, addressing representatives of some 50 nations that France is trying to coax action on promises.

The meeting in Paris, attended also by three Syrian National Coalition vice-presidents, comes two days before a donors conference in Kuwait.

Promises of funding and other aid made at a December conference in Marrakech, Morocco of the Friends of Syria group have failed to materialize. France, which has spearheaded the formation of a viable opposition in exile, wants to make sure that already promised backing comes through.

More than $100 million was promised in Marrakech, but it's unclear how much has come through.

More than 100 countries have backed the Syrian National Coalition, formed in November, decreeing it the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people. France was the first to confer such recognition.

Fabius said it's urgent to fulfill vows to help, both humanitarian and political, some 22 months after the start of Assad's crackdown.

The coalition replaced an early opposition grouping of exiled Syrians, whose credibility was compromised by infighting and criticism that they were out of touch with Syrians fighting the Assad regime or suffering the results of war.

Now the new, more representative coalition risks its own survival, and it has yet to form a provisional government as it said it would do.

The U.N. says more than 60,000 people have been killed since the start of the conflict in March 2011, and Fabius held up the specter of chaos taking over without a legitimate political force.

"Time is not on our side," said Riad Seif, a coalition vice-president.

"The Syrian people are angry at this dubious silence of the world," he said, saying that some even think a plot against their country is afoot. He pleaded for "tangible results" from the Paris meeting, both in aid and political and diplomatic support.

The Coalition "can't keep coming back empty-handed," Seif said.

Even formation of a provisional government depends on strong backing from the international community, he said.

"If we announce a government without a budget, without a sure zone (inside the country), it makes no sense."

The United States set the example ahead of the Paris gathering, announcing Friday plans to send $10 million in new U.S. aid to help alleviate hunger in northern Syria.

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