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Clinton tells Syria at Istanbul peace summit: 'The time for excuses is over'

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the Assad regime in Syria must stop killing its people or face "serious consequences." NBC's Andrea Mitchell has more.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has ramped up her pressure on the Syrian regime in a stern speech to a summit in Istanbul, Turkey, warning of “serious consequences” if Bashar Assad fails to implement Kofi Annan's cease-fire plan.

She told the 60-nation Friends of Syria conference that "the time for excuses is over."


"Nearly a week has gone by, and we have to conclude that the regime is adding to its long list of broken promises," she said.

 

She added that the United States is adding $12 million to its non-lethal aid to the opposition, bringing the total to $25 million - and for the first time, is also providing communication equipment to the rebels "to help activists organize, evade attacks by the regime, and connect to the outside world.”

Clinton also told the conference: "The world must judge Assad by what he does, not by what he says. And we cannot sit back and wait any longer."

While the administration continues to have reservations about the Syrian National Council's ability to successfully challenge Assad, she is meeting with them during the Istanbul conference to urge them to work more closely with other opposition groups and translate their plan for a unified transition into political action.

She said: "That's how the opposition will demonstrate beyond any doubt that they hold the moral high ground, strip away Assad's remaining support and expose the regime's hypocrisy.”

Separately, the BBC has reported that Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states are creating a trust fund with millions of dollars to pay rebel troops. Troops who defect from Assad's army would be paid to encourage defections.

The Washington Post's David Ignatius talks about the meeting between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Saudi King Abdullah about whether Syria should accept a ceasefire.

Opening the conference, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told foreign ministers and other officials present that the "legitimate demands of the Syrian people must be met, right here, right now."

The United States and its Gulf Arab allies, suspecting Assad of playing for time, urged Annan on Saturday to set a time-line for "next steps" if there was no ceasefire.

Violence has raged unabated despite Annan's mediation. Opposition activists reported at least 16 people killed on Sunday, mostly in clashes in northwestern and eastern Syria.

Syrian media derided the Istanbul meeting, which the Baath newspaper described as "a regional and international scramble to find ways of killing more Syrians and destroying their society and country, to reach the broad goal of weakening Syria."

A communique to be issued later on Sunday by the conference will give full support to UN envoy Annan's peace mission while stressing that it cannot be open-ended.

A diplomat, who was involved in drafting the communique, told Reuters the conference would work on additional measures to protect the Syrian people, while the U.N. Security Council should play an important role in ending the conflict.

Around 50 Assad supporters protested outside the conference center, waving Syria, Russian and Chinese flags and brandishing pictures of the Syrian leader. "Allah, Syria, Bashar, that's it" and "Down, down USA" they chanted, before police removed them.

Mahmoud Abdulatif, a Syrian lawyer who joined dozens in a similar protest outside a conference hotel used by delegates, accused Gulf Arab leaders and others of meddling in Syria.

"There can be no foreign involvement in Syria," he said.

Annan will brief the U.N. Security Council on Monday on his efforts to calm a conflict in which Syrian security forces have killed more than 9,000 people, by a U.N. estimate, while rebels have killed 3,000 troops and police, according to Damascus.

His six-point plan demands that Assad order his military to cease fire, withdraw troops from cities and open daily windows for humanitarian aid, but does not require him to step down.

The rebel Free Syrian Army said on Saturday it would stop shooting if Assad pulled heavy weaponry out of urban areas, but Damascus said its forces must stay to maintain security.

NBC News and Reuters contributed to this report.