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White House Mum on Covert Aid to Syria Rebels

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- The White House announced today it has pledged an additional $12 million in humanitarian aid to civilians affected by the ongoing violence in Syria.

Food, water, medical kits and other supplies bring the total U.S. assistance to that country to $76 million, partly distributed through the World Food Program, International Red Cross, and other organizations.

In a written statement, the administration praised Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey for providing additional relief or hosting refugees from the conflict, which the United Nations reports has displaced over a million. Over 130,000 have fled to neighboring states.

The U.N. has asked for $180 million in international assistance for the country.

The announcement does not address yesterday's report that President Obama had signed a secret order broadly authorizing the CIA and other agencies to provide support to rebels against the Bashar Assad regime. While the precise date of the order is undetermined, it comes on the heels of observations of marked improvement in effectiveness from the armed opposition in recent weeks.

The exact nature of the covert assistance is unknown, but it appears to stop short of providing actual armaments. On Wednesday the State Department acknowledged $25 million had been set aside for "non lethal" assistance to the fighters, such as communications equipment.

The Obama administration has declined to comment on the report, but today Press Secretary Jay Carney continued its prior stance against further arming Assad's opposition.

"We don't believe that adding to the number of weapons in Syria will do anything to help bring about a peaceful transition," he said.

It has not stopped the import of weapons from Saudi Arabia, Turkey or Qatar.

Kofi Annan formally announced Thursday that he would step down as special envoy to Syria at the end of the month. Carney praised Annan's for his service in the country, but said his efforts were disrupted by the break of international unity against Assad.    

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