* Saudis have led diplomatic efforts to isolate Assad gov't
* Accuses Assad of targeting civilians
RIYADH Aug 2 A convoy of trucks left Riyadh for
Syrian refugee camps in Jordan on Thursday evening carrying the
first batch of aid from a 10-day national appeal that has so far
raised $125 million.
Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter and birthplace of
Islam, has led Arab diplomatic efforts to isolate the government
of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over his suppression of a
16-month-old rebellion against his rule.
The predominantly Sunni Muslim kingdom has accused Assad of
targeting civilians, but is also mindful that his government is
the closest Middle East ally of Saudi Arabia's big regional
rival, Shi'ite Iran.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal previously has
backed the idea of arming rebel forces and last week Reuters
reported that Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey had established a
base in southern Turkey to aid Syria's opposition.
In a statement on Saturday Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry
did not directly deny the report, but said its position was to
extend to the Syrian people "financial and humanitarian
It also called for Syrians to be enabled "to protect
themselves" if the international community proved unable to
Syria and Iran have accused Saudi Arabia of fuelling the
violence in the country.
The Saudi Press Agency reported late on Wednesday that the
campaign, which was launched by King Abdullah with a $5.3
million donation last Monday, had raised 468 million riyals
The 43 aid trucks assembled in a shopping mall car park in
northern Riyadh before the sunset prayer, loaded with food,
medicine and clothing under orange tarpaulins.
The drivers, mostly Pakistanis, wore white T-shirts bearing
the campaign logo, along with matching baseball caps.
To one side a tent had been erected with a buffet inside for
the sunset breaking of the Ramadan fast, after which they would
set off on the roughly six-day journey to the camps along
Jordan's border with Syria.
Campaign director, Mubarak Said al-Baker, said dozens of
volunteers were travelling with the trucks to assist in the
distribution of the aid.
The trucks were marked with the slogan "Saudi kingdom of
humanity" in English and Arabic along the sides, while the cabs
were decorated in more ornamental style with flags, stickers,
plastic flowers and the Muslim invocation ma sha'allah, or "God
has willed it".