Clinton on Syria: "This is the moment of truth"

(CBS News) ISTANBUL - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had tough words for the regime of Bashar al Assad in Syria on Sunday.

"There is no more time, or excuses or delays. This is the moment of truth," Clinton said.

She made her remarks in Turkey, and made a general call to support the opposition.

CBS News correspondent Clarissa Ward reports that delegates from more than 70 countries gathered with Sec. Clinton in Istanbul to push for solutions as President Bashar al Assad's brutal crackdown continued inside Syria.

Topping Sunday's agenda was a discussion of U.N. Special Envoy Kofi Annan's 6-point peace plan. President Assad claimed to accept the plan almost a week ago, but there has been no let-up in the violence.

Clinton said she would not call Assad's plan a failure, and that there is no obvious deadline for doing so.

"We think that Assad must go, that the killing must stop. The sooner we get into a process that ends up there, the better, and I think former Secretary General Annan understands that," Clinton said.

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Clinton said she would describe the timeline on the plan as "self-enforced."

"I think he has to be the one who says within a relatively short period of time, 'We're not getting any results. I was given promises and they're not kept.' Because then we would go back to the Security Council," Clinton said.

For rebel fighters inside the country, time is running out. Ward and a CBS News crew were recently inside Syria, in the north in the city of Idlib. The rebels there were saying they have no ammunition left, they have no money left, and that their only recourse for self-defense is to build bombs. There is a growing concern that if no support comes from the outside soon that the conflict could devolve into a very bloody, very ugly insurgency.

To that end, Clinton said some help is on the way.

"A group of nations will be providing assistance for the fighters, and that is a decision that is being welcomed by the Syrian National Council," Clinton said.

That group of nations includes Saudi Arabia and some Gulf states, which today pledged millions to pay rebel salaries, and to encourage more Syrian Army defections to shift the balance of power.

The U.S. pledged $12 million in aid, including for the first time, satellite communications equipment.

"They have a great deal of difficulty communicating inside Syria," Clinton said. "We think we have some assets that we can get in there."

The already-in-place economic sanctions have made life very difficult in Syria: the price of food has doubled; there are long lines for gas; and Clinton seemed to feel that there were cracks emerging within the regime.

She said there is no time frame on the breakdown, but she believes it is beginning to happen.

  • Clarissa Ward
    Clarissa Ward

    Foreign Correspondent, CBS News