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U.S. Providing Humanitarian, Nonlethal Aid to Syria

29 March 2013

The United States is providing an "exceptional amount" of humanitarian aid to the Syrian people and rising levels of nonlethal assistance to the Syrian opposition, according to White House press secretary Jay Carney.

The Syrian Opposition Coalition is the "legitimate representative of the opposition and of the Syrian people in their effort to rid their country of the scourge that is President Assad, a leader with enormous amounts of blood of his own people on his hands," Carney said to reporters in Washington March 26.

"We continue to provide an exceptional amount of humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, the largest amount, I believe, of any country. We continue to provide nonlethal assistance to the opposition and continue to step up the levels of nonlethal assistance that we provide," Carney said.

The United States and its NATO partners, Carney said, are sticking to their decision not to intervene militarily in Syria and are not planning to meet a Syrian Opposition Coalition request for Patriot missiles, which are designed to shoot down aircraft.

Carney added that the Patriot missiles deployed in Turkey, where many Syrian refugees have fled, are for "defensive purposes only," to augment Turkey's air defense capabilities to defend its territory and people.

In February, the White House released a fact sheet saying the United States has contributed $365 million so far in humanitarian aid to help more than 1.5 million people inside Syria and more than 500,000 Syrians who have fled to neighboring countries. This money is spent for emergency medical care, food and winterization supplies such as blankets and heaters. The U.S. government channels the aid through the United Nations, nongovernmental organizations and partner countries such as Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, which shelter the refugees.

The more than $50 million so far in U.S. nonlethal assistance goes to groups working to build democratic institutions at the local and national levels and to nonsectarian civic groups that are trying to put together a nationwide network of activists from different religions and ethnic groups who want to link Syrian citizens with governmental structures.

The nonlethal assistance has enabled activists to establish community radio stations that inform refugees and displaced people about where they can get services. The assistance also is used to train citizen journalists in gathering, evaluating and disseminating information.

The nonlethal assistance has made it possible for unarmed opposition elements inside Syria to link up with global supporters, according to the fact sheet. For example, the Syria Justice and Accountability Center is getting support in its work to document human rights abuses and coordinate transitional justice and accountability efforts after the Assad regime falls.

A portion of the nonlethal assistance also is spent on promoting the Syrian business community's engagement in transition processes, the fact sheet said.

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