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Rebels plead for weapons to make their vision of post-Assad Syria happen

International pressure is mounting on Syrian leader Bashar Assad, as diplomats from about 80 nations gather in Tunisia to discuss the crisis. NBC's Richard Engel reports.

The main opposition Syrian National Council outlined on Friday its vision for a post-Assad Syria, and appealed for the weapons required to make that happen.

The SNC announced it was proposing an interim presidential council of national leaders and a truth and reconciliation committee at a meeting of the “Friends of Syria” group of 70 Western and Arab nations in Tunisia Friday.


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said ahead of the meeting that rebel fighters would become “increasingly capable,” saying they will “from somewhere, somehow, find the means to defend themselves as well as begin offensive measures."

And, in her opening remarks to the conference, Clinton said the regime of President Bashar Assad had "ignored every warning, squandered every opportunity and broken every agreement."

The Friends of Syria group is demanding an immediate cease-fire so humanitarian aid can be delivered to Syrians who have suffered under a yearlong assault, especially those in the city of Homs, which has been under bombardment for three weeks.

"If the Assad regime refuses to allow this life-saving aid to reach civilians, it will have ever-more blood on its hands," Clinton said, noting the same was true of nations like Russia and China, which are supporting Assad.

Clinton: Syria rebels will get arms 'somehow'

According to a copy of his speech to the meeting, SNC leader Burhan Ghalioun called for the continuation of the uprising until Assad was ousted or handed over power as per an Arab League plan.

BBC News reported that the SNC said countries should be allowed to supply arms to aid rebel fighters if President Bashar Assad’s government refuses to stop attacking civilians and accept the terms of an Arab League peace deal.

Red Cross tries to help injured reporters in Homs, Syria

However a Syrian opposition source told Reuters on Friday that Western and other countries were already turning a blind eye to weapons purchases by Syrian exiles.

The source said exiles were already smuggling light arms, communications equipment and night vision goggles to rebels inside Syria.

While speaking to a group in London on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discusses the violent situation in Syria and the future of President Bashar Assad.

Syrian opposition supporters were also trying to find ways to bring anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons to the Free Syrian Army, which is composed mainly of Syrian soldiers who have defected and volunteer civilians, the source added.

Hamas ditches Assad
The Hamas prime minister of Gaza Ismail Haniyeh said after Friday prayers at Egypt's Al-Azhar Mosque that Hamas commends "the brave Syrian people that are moving toward democracy and reform."

Assad has long hosted and supported leaders of the Islamic militant movement, which rules the Gaza Strip, but the group has significantly reduced the presence of its exiled leaders in Syria since the start of the 11-month-old uprising against the Syrian regime.

Some of the top Hamas leaders are now spending most of their time in Qatar, Egypt and Lebanon, as the group tries to distance itself from Assad's brutal crackdown on opponents.

As efforts were being made to get weapons to the rebels, Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called on the world to find ways to deny the Syrian government "the means with which to perpetrate atrocities against the Syrian people."

"We must seek ways and means of enforcing an arms embargo upon the regime," Davutoglu told the Friends of Syria meeting Friday.

Syrian rebels have tried to fight back, but they are losing the battle after being outnumbered and outgunned. NBC's Richard Engel reports.

There was drama as the conference got under way at the Palace Hotel in Tunis, when several hundred pro-Assad protesters breached the grounds, forcing Clinton to be diverted to her hotel and delaying her appearance at the meeting. Police wielding batons stopped them getting inside the hotel itself and drove them out the parking lot after about 15 minutes.

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According to the copy of his speech, Ghalioun said that after Assad was gone there should be the "formation of a presidential council composed of national leaders and the formation of a transitional government of political, military and technocratic figures who have not fought against the revolution."

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He also proposed the creation of a council that would address the abuses of the Assad regime and prevent any political or sectarian reprisals.

"The committee will work to reconcile and restore the sense of nationalism and human values that have been lacking during this crisis," he said. The transitional period would end with elections to a parliament that would draw up a new constitution.

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Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said in a speech at the meeting Friday that an Arab force should be created to impose peace in Syria and allow aid to get in.

"There is a need to create an Arab force and open humanitarian corridors to provide security to the Syrian people," he said.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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