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World powers ramp up pressure on Syria

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World powers ramp up pressure on Syria

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Istanbul, Turkey (CNN) — The United States vowed to nearly double its funding to the Syrian opposition, and Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised the Syrian people “they will not be left alone” as leaders from around the world met to discuss ways to ramp up pressure on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
But violence continued in Syria even as the Friends of Syria conference took place in Istanbul, and a Syrian opposition leader called on the international community to do more.
Aid worth about $30 million “is not enough,” said Asib Shishakly of the Syrian National Council. “We know we have over a million people in need of aid. A million dollars daily minimum is needed.”
“If we don’t bring protection for the people inside Syria, it’s like we didn’t do anything,” he said, calling for international support of the rebel Free Syrian Army, safe zones to protect people, and relief and medical support.
He warned that the opposition could not hold out forever if al-Assad did not make good soon on his promise to accept a peace plan by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
“We cannot keep this thing going,” he said. “So if we give a chance to the regime and we don’t give a deadline to the Annan mission, then we’re giving the Assad regime a chance to commit more killing, more torture.”
The SNC is also asking the international community for financial support so it can pay a salary to fighters in the opposition Free Syrian Army.
The cost of the program is expected to be in the millions of dollars, conference participants said, with one of them adding that this could, in fact, increase the rate of defections which, in turn, could “contribute to the demoralization of the regime.”
At the end of its conference on Sunday the Friends of Syria group recognized the SNC as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people, effectively declaring it the main opposition group the international community would work with.
The 83-member group also declared its “support for legitimate measures taken by the Syrian population to protect themselves” and called on Syrian forces not to obey “unlawful orders targeting the Syrian people.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said sanctions were slowly beginning to have an effect on the Syrian leadership.
“Really increasing the enforcement of sanctions was one of the best” outcomes of the conference, she told CNN.
“The individual sanctions, you know the travel bans, the visa bans… are beginning to really wake people up. They’re looking around thinking, ‘For the rest of my life I’m only going to be able to go to Iran? That doesn’t sound like a great idea,'” she said.
“The reserves of the country are being drawn down, marketplaces are not as full of goods,” she said, even as she conceded that sanctions take time to bite, while violence in the country is “horrific.”
Gunfire and explosions rocked the country even as the conference was taking place, with blasts killing at least nine people in the Daraa governorate, according to the opposition Local Coordination Committees in Syria.
In the suburbs of Damascus, explosions and gunfire erupted in the morning, the opposition activists said. Snipers targeted moving objects as security forces deployed tanks at various checkpoints, according to the group.
Speaking in Istanbul, Clinton announced an additional $12 million in U.S. aid to the Syrian opposition, nearly doubling the amount of American money pledged for humanitarian aid including field hospitals and medical training.