State Dept.: Give Syria ‘Time and Space’--and $34 Million More in Aid

By Penny Starr | November 12, 2012 | 1:22 PM EST

Syrians who fled from the violence in their village, carry plastic containers as they line up to fill them with water at a displaced camp, in the Syrian village of Atma, near the Turkish border with Syria. Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)

( – At a briefing on Friday at the State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters that the United States should give the Syrian National Council “time and space” to form a government that would replace the Bashar Hafez al-Assad regime.

At the same briefing Nuland announced the U.S. has increased its “humanitarian” aid to Syria by $34 million or $165 million in total.

Nuland was responding to a reporter’s question about the council meeting in Doha, Qatar over the weekend to determine who will be included in the opposition government and the role the U.S. is playing.

“I think we need to give them a little time and space,”Nuland said. “Apparently, it is very focused. It’s very vigorous, and there are a broad representation of groups participating. So that’s a good thing, but now we have to see if they can come up with some results.

Nuland said the U.S. and other nations are pressing for a more “diverse” leadership on the council.

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“There is not a country represented in international observer status who does not want to see this meeting bring results specifically in the form of a more diverse, broader Syrian opposition leadership structure that is more connected to leaders on the ground, the situation on the ground, and that protects and advances the rights of all Syrians,” Nuland said. “We all want to see that.

“We’re all putting up pressure on them to do as much as they can and not to miss this opportunity to come together in defense of the Syrian people,” she said.

Later in the briefing, Nuland was asked about a State Department Nov. 9 statement about an increase in U.S. funding for humanitarian aid for Syrians.

“Well, first, to confirm what we put out in our statement that at the monthly humanitarian meeting in Geneva today, the U.S. did announce that our humanitarian contribution to Syrians is being increased by some $34 million, bringing our total up to $165 million,”Nuland said.

Some of the increased funding will be used for winterizing Syrian refugee camps in Jordan, Libya and Turkey, according to the State Department.

The funds also will pay for “child protection and gender-based violence prevention,” immunizations for children and ambulance transportation for wounded Syrians across Syria’s border to Lebanon for medical treatment.