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S. Arabia to Fund Syrian Terrorists.

Summary: TEHRAN (FNA)- Saudi officials are preparing to pay salaries to the so-called Free Syria Army, media reports said, adding that the move is meant to encourage mass defections from the military and increase pressure on President Bashar al-Assad government.

Saudi Arabia has long provided logical, including arms, backup for rebel groups and terrorists and funded their operations against Bashar al-Assad's government.

The move, which has been discussed between Riyadh and senior officials in the US and Arab world, is believed to be gaining momentum as a recent flush of weapons sent to rebel forces by Saudi Arabia and Qatar starts to make an impact on battlefields in Syria.

Officials in the Saudi capital raised the idea in May, according to sources in three Arab states, around the same time that weapons started to flow across the southern Turkish border into the hands of Free Syria Army leaders, the Guardian reported.

Turkey has also allowed the establishment of a command centre in Istanbul which is coordinating supply lines in consultation with FSA leaders inside Syria. The centre is believed to be staffed by up to 22 people, most of them Syrian nationals.

The Guardian witnessed the transfer of weapons in early June near the Turkish frontier. Five men dressed in the style of Persian Gulf Arabs arrived in a police station in the border village of Altima in Syria and finalized a transfer from the Turkish town of Reyhanli of around 50 boxes of rifles and ammunition, as well as a large shipment of medicines.

The men were treated with deference by local FSA leaders and were carrying large bundles of cash. They also received two prisoners held by rebels, who were allegedly members of the pro-regime militia, the Shabiha.

The influx of weapons has reinvigorated the insurrection in northern Syria, which less than six weeks ago was on the verge of being crushed.

The move to pay the guerrilla forces' salaries centers on paying the FSA in either US dollars or euros, meaning their salaries would be restored to their pre-revolution levels, or possibly increased.

The US senator Joe Lieberman, who is actively supporting the Syrian opposition, discussed the issue of FSA salaries during a recent trip to Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

His spokesman, Whitney Phillips, said, "Senator Lieberman has called for the US to provide robust and comprehensive support to the armed Syrian opposition, in coordination with our partners in the Middle East and Europe. He has specifically called for the US to work with our partners to provide the armed Syrian opposition with weapons, training, tactical intelligence, secure communications and other forms of support to change the military balance of power inside Syria."

"Senator Lieberman also supports the idea of ensuring that the armed opposition fighters receive regular and sufficient pay, although he does not believe it is necessary for the United States to provide this funding itself directly."

US defense secretary Leon Panetta said this week Washington was not playing a direct role in gun-running into northern Syria. "We made a decision not to provide lethal assistance at this point. I know others have made their own decisions."

Earlier this week the New York Times reported the CIA was operating in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which opposition fighters would get weapons.

Diplomatic sources have told the Guardian two US intelligence officers were in Syria's third city of Homs between December and early February, trying to establish command and control within rebel ranks.

Interviews with officials in three states reveal the influx of weapons - which includes Kalashnikovs, rocket propelled grenades and anti-tank missiles - started in mid-May, when Saudi Arabia and Qatar boosted aids to arm rebel forces.

The officials, who insisted on anonymity, said the final agreement to move weapons from storage points inside Turkey into rebel hands was hard won, with Ankara first insisting on diplomatic cover from the Arab states and the US.

Turkey is understood to view the weapons supply lines as integral to the protection of its southern border, which is coming under increasing pressure as regime forces edge closer in an attempt to stop the gun-running and attack FSA units.

Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have become increasingly hostile with Saudi Arabia in February describing the suggestion to arm rebel groups as an "excellent idea" and Qatar having offered exile to Assad and his family.

2012 Fars News Agency. All rights reserved

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Publication:FARS News Agency
Geographic Code:7SAUD
Date:Jun 23, 2012
Words:739
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