Gulf States to Pay Salaries for Syrian Free Army


ABC News' Reena Ninan reports:

Representatives of 60 countries pledged financial assistance to the main Syrian opposition group on Sunday, in an effort to encourage further defections from President Bashar al Assad's forces.

International envoys gathered in Turkey for the "Friends of the Syrian People" conference.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. has agreed to pledge an additional $12 million for a total of $25 million and to provide communications equipment to help the Syrian Free Army organize.

"A lot of officers are willing to defect," said a Saudi official who asked not to be identified. "We're saying you can keep your current post. If you're a general now you'll remain a general."

Inside Syria the violence continued as Assad's forces clashed with the opposition this weekend.

UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan announced last week that Assad had agreed to a cease-fire as part of a newly presented peace plan, but the violence has yet to stop.

"Bashar al-Assad has so far refused to honor his pledge to implement it," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  "The time for excuses is over.  President Medvedev calls this the 'last chance' for Syria. I call it a moment of truth."

While many Gulf states wanted to see the White House arm the rebels, U.S. officials said they were not prepared to do that while the opposition remained splintered.

Recently, however, attempts have been made to unify the groups.  Last week, they adopted a national pact to create an identity and a vision for the future.

Despite the reluctance from western governments to remove Assad by military force, it appears efforts are underway to prepare Syria for life after Assad.

Secretary Clinton met with members of the Syrian National Congress on Sunday.

She also discussed the importance of training Syrians to document atrocities and preserve records for future investigations or trials in international courts.

A sanctions working group was also created to target those willing to help Assad.

"Together we must further isolate this regime, cut off its funds, and squeeze its ability to wage war on its own people," Clinton said.