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U.S. Seeks Bread for Outgunned Syrians Battling Regime

Jan. 25 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. plans to announce “additional, significant” humanitarian funding for Syrians during an international donors’ conference next week in Kuwait, the State Department said today in a statement.

The new aid includes $10 million for flour to help alleviate the critical shortage of bread in Aleppo, which before the fighting was Syria’s most-populous city. The money will buy enough flour to provide bread for approximately 210,000 people each day for the next five months, according to the statement.

Syrian rebels, mostly Sunni Muslims, have been fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad since March 2011 in a conflict that, according to the United Nations, has left at least 60,000 people dead. Along with winter weather, shortages of fuel and food have increased the hardships for Syrians in cities torn by the fighting .

“Many bakeries have had to close down because the Assad regime has cut off flour and fuel,” according to the statement. “The United States recognizes bread as a mainstay of Syrian daily life, and this new program is focused on getting 50 bakeries back up and running to provide life-saving food to the Syrian people.”

The bombing of a bakery in Helfeya by government warplanes on Dec. 24 killed 94 people, according to opposition groups.

Counting the $10 million, the United States has providing $220 million in aid for Syrians, the State Department said. The U.S. has supplied only humanitarian aid for Syrians and non-lethal equipment for opposition fighters, who have relied on Persian Gulf supporters for outside supplies of weapons.

Aid Conferences

The U.S. is working with the Syrian Opposition Council, the umbrella opposition group, as well as with international and Syrian humanitarian organizations to get food aid and medical supplies to those in need.

France is holding an international meeting Jan. 28 of Syrian opposition leaders and representatives from some 50 nations and organizations. That meeting is schedule to be followed by a United Nations-backed donors’ conference in Kuwait Jan. 30 to increase humanitarian support for Syrians.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been displaced within their country by the fighting and, by UN count, more than 612,000 refugees have fled to neighboring nations, including about 160,000 in Turkey and more than 150,000 in Jordan.

The UN refugee agency said today that more than 30,000 refugees arriving at Za’atri camp in Jordan since Jan. 1. This compares to some 16,400 in December, 13,000 in November and 10,000 in October.

To contact the reporter on this story: Terry Atlas in Washington at tatlas@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at jwalcott9@bloomberg.net

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