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Syria

US pledges aid to Syrian opposition

US Secretary of State John Kerry has pledged $60 million (45.75 million euros) in "nonlethal" aid to the Syrian opposition. The news came during a meeting of the Friends of Syria Group at a meeting in Rome.

"We are determined to find a way forward to a better day that we know awaits Syria ... a day that will not come as long as [President Bashar al-Assad] is in power," the US secretary of state told reporters during a press conference on Thursday.

The international community has repeatedly called on Assad to find a peaceful resolution to the civil war fought by his military and opponents of the government. The violence has only escalated as the conflict nears two years of fighting that has claimed more than 70,000 lives, driven people out by the hundreds of thousands and destroyed the country's cities.

John Kerry pledges US aid to Syria

Given Assad's refusal to negotiate or lessen attacks on opponents and the civilian population, the United States has decided to give concrete support to opposition fighters in the form of food and medical supplies.

Kerry also expressed the United States' support for establishing a peaceful transitional government that can help rebuild Syria once Assad gives up his "cold-blooded effort to cling to power."

"Assad cannot shoot his way out of this," Kerry said.

The decisive statement was the first major speech for the new secretary of state. Kerry has been visiting European capitals since the weekend as part of his first tour, which is also to include a visit to the Middle East.

Syrian opposition leader Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, who met with Kerry earlier in the day, was also to address reporters.

Friends of Syria press for a political solution

Representatives of the 90 countries that belong to the Friends of Syria Group - which does not include Russia or China - had also expressed similar sentiments in the run-up to Thursday's highly anticipated talks.

Speaking in Berlin on Thursday, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle pleged another 5 million euros in humanitarian aid, increasing the country's contributions to humanitarian assistance in the Syrian conflict to 118 million euros ($155 million).

"We are doing this as a signal of solidarity with the people in Syria and the refugees in the neighboring countries who are suffering incredible hardship," Westerwelle said.

Over the weekend, international leaders were able to convince Syrian opposition representatives to attend the conference in Italy by promising to provide humanitarian assistance.

Neighboring countries have taken in waves of Syrian refugees, now quickly approaching a total of 1 million. According to current UN numbers, nearly 420,000 displaced people have crossed into Jordan, another 317,000 into Lebanon and 185,000 into Turkey.

Meanwhile in Russia, French President Francois Hollande was meeting with President Vladimir Putin. Russia has opposed intervention in the Syrian conflict.

"I think that in the next few weeks we will manage to find a political solution that will stop the conflict from escalating," Hollande told the Echo of Moscow radio station ahead of talks with Putin.

kms/mkg (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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