ISTANBUL (AP) — Participants at a conference on Syria say Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries are creating a multimillion-dollar fund to pay salaries to members of the rebel Free Syrian Army and soldiers who defect from the regime and join opposition ranks.

The plan is the first formal support, though only financial, for Syria’s badly overmatched rebels, and offers a solution to the international divide over whether to arm the rebels or support them through only non-lethal or humanitarian means.

Conference participants confirmed the plan on condition of anonymity because details were still being worked out. It was unclear how the fund would be set up and monitored.

Delegates from dozens of countries are meeting in Istanbul on Sunday to increase pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.