PERTH, Australia – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that the U.S. will provide an additional $30 million in humanitarian aid to Syria, bringing the total U.S aid to the war-torn nation to $200 million.
Clinton made the announcement in Western Australia, where she is attending an annual summit with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and their Australian counterparts.
On Tuesday, France became the first Western country to formally recognize Syria's newly formed opposition coalition as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people. The U.S. also recognized the leadership body as a legitimate representative, but stopped short of describing it as a sole representative.
Syria's opposition had been deeply divided for months despite the relentless bloodshed and repeated calls from Western and Arab supporters to create a cohesive and representative leadership that could present a single conduit for foreign aid. The formation of the coalition, after more than a week of meetings in the Qatari capital of Doha, could boost efforts to secure international backing -- and possibly weapons -- that will be needed to oust President Bashar Assad.
Clinton was asked Wednesday whether there was any way the U.S. would follow France and recognize the opposition as sole representatives and perhaps provide lethal aid.
"We have long called for this kind of organization," Clinton said. "The United States was deeply involved in the work that went on leading up to and at Doha. Now we want to see that momentum maintained. Specifically, we urge them to finalize the organizational arrangements to support the commitments that they made in Doha and to begin influencing events on the ground in Syria."
"As the Syrian opposition takes these steps and demonstrates its effectiveness in advancing the cause of a unified, democratic, pluralistic Syria, we will be prepared to work with them to deliver assistance to the Syrian people," she said.