DOHA, Qatar -- The Syrian opposition's major international backers agreed Saturday to provide "urgently all the necessary materiel and equipment" to rebels fighting the government of President Bashar Assad.
The agreement did not specify what kind of weapons would be sent or which supporters would provide what. But officials attending the Doha conference said Saudi Arabia and Qatar are prepared to quickly supply shoulder-launched antiaircraft missiles and armor-piercing shells to be used against Mr. Assad's air force and tanks.
Despite offering a series of pledges of coordination and increased aid in recent months, the rebels' backers have been divided and inconsistent in acting on them. But officials insisted the new pledge was firm and specific in terms of both quantity and quantity of supplies.
"Something different happened today," Secretary of State John Kerry said following a four-hour meeting of foreign ministers from 11 Western and Middle Eastern governments. Because of Mr. Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons and the large-scale intervention of Hezbollah and Iranian militia fighters in Syria's civil war, he said, "we have decided that we have no choice ... but to provide greater assistance."
Although the rebels have been receiving arms from Persian Gulf nations, officials said the Doha decision will ensure a continuous, coordinated flow and procedures to ensure that the weapons will be kept from Islamic militants.
The session was the fourth time that the 11 nations that make up the Friends of Syria group -- the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates -- have gathered this year.
But since their last meeting, barely a month ago in Amman, Jordan, the situation on the ground has turned sharply against the rebels.
First France and Britain, and early this month the United States, said their separate investigations had concluded that Mr. Assad had used chemical weapons. More important, Iranian and Hezbollah intervention inflamed fears that Syria's civil conflict would spill beyond its borders to become a regional sectarian war.
The escalation of fighting and increasing rebel losses also set back plans to hold peace negotiations this summer on a post-Assad transition government.
In Syria on Saturday, government forces stepped up their attack against rebel strongholds north of the capital, Damascus on Saturday, while opposition fighters declared their own offensive in the country's largest city Aleppo.
The fighting in Damascus came as the Syrian government announced salary increases for state employees and members of the military, days after the Syrian currency dipped to a record low of 210 pounds to the dollar compared with 47 when the crisis began more than two years ago. The raise also covered pensions.
At the Doha meeting, agreement was not unanimous, and officials said Germany led a small minority opposed to the provision of arms to the rebels on the grounds, saying that it would intensify Syria's humanitarian crisis and promote, rather than restrain, sectarian war between Sunnis and Shiites in the Middle East.
But others were harsh in their judgment of the group's previous ineffectiveness. "All of the Arab and international efforts to end the Syrian tragedy have failed, rendering the international community a helpless observer that cannot deal with the situation," Qatari Prime Minister Hamad Bin Jasim al-Thani said as he opened the group's formal session.
"It's not in the talking about it, it's in the doing," Mr. Kerry said at a news conference.
In a joint declaration, the foreign ministers said their decisions were designed specifically "to change the balance of power on the ground."
They also agreed to increase humanitarian assistance to nearly 5 million Syrians who have been internally displaced or have fled to neighboring countries to escape the fighting that has left more than 90,000 dead, according to U.N. figures.
Associated Press contributed.