Clinton: Assad regime showing some weakness

(CBS News) Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said Monday Syria's dictator Bashar al-Assad has agreed to withdraw troops and tanks from the big cities by a week from tomorrow. Of course, Assad has promised to end the violence before, even as he's tried to crush the year-old rebellion.

CBS News correspondent Clarissa Ward reports there are no signs that the Syrian regime will live up to its promises. On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a blunt assessment of the situation.

"We believe Assad must go, that the killing must stop. The sooner we get into a process that ends up there, the better," Clinton said.

Also on Sunday, Saudi Arabia and a group of Gulf states announced a $100 million plan to pay the salaries of rebel fighters inside Syria. On a recent reporting trip inside Syria, rebels told CBS News they have no ammunition left, no money, and that their only recourse for self-defense is to build IEDs or bombs. Clinton said the U.S. will help where it can.

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"We think we have some assets that we can get in there that we will try to do that will enable them to have better communications," Clinton said, adding that there are already some signs the Assad regime is slipping.

"Well today we heard from a deputy Oil Minister who defected. We do see those kinds of cracks. We think the defections from the military are in the thousands," Clinton said.

The secretary of state was cautious to point out that the situation in the government's inner circle is different than it was in Libya, where large numbers of top aides defected.

"When there were a couple of defections, the regime has cracked down and is bascially holding families hostage. But that is an unsustainable system. You cannot turn the country into a giant prison. People are not going to put up with that. We think that there are cracks. I can't put a time frame on it but we think that that is beginning to happen," Clinton said.

The Gulf states supporting Syria's rebels haven't announced how this "pot of gold", as one diplomat called it, will be allocated but the money will all go through the main opposition group, the Syrian National Council. The hope is that it will create more cohesion and coordination between the various rebel groups because they will all have to go through the SNC to get it.

  • Clarissa Ward

    Foreign Correspondent, CBS News

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