Saudi Arabia calls for military assistance for Syrian rebels
Prince Saud al-Faisal calls for UN resolution to declare Assad regime illegitimate
Smoke rises after Lebanese army soldiers detonated an explosive device near the mosque complex where fugitive radical Sunni cleric Ahmad Assir was believed to be sheltering with his supporters, in Abra near Sidon, southern Lebanon. Photograph: Reuters/Ali Hashisho
Saudi Arabia considers the intervention of Iran and Hizbullah in the Syrian conflict as threatening and argues the rebels must be given military aid, the kingdom’s foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal statedtoday during a press conference in Jeddah with US secretary of state John Kerry.
The prince called for a UN Security Council resolution “to halt the provision of army to the . . . regime and declare [its] illegitimacy”.
In Geneva, following talks with US and Russian officials, international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi expressed disappointment that the proposed Geneva conference on the war in Syria had been delayed.
He said: “There is still a lot of work to do to bring a conference about. For this reason we have come to the conclusion . . . that it will not be possible to hold this conference in June,” as originally scheduled.
He said consultations would continue with the aim of holding the conference in July.
Ahead of the meeting, he warned against arming the sides and urged Washington and Moscow to try to contain the conflict that is “getting out of hand, not only in Syria but also in the region” citing the latest spillover from Syria into Lebanon.
In the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanese troops braved a grenade attack and gunfire as they raided homes searching for fugitive radical Sunni cleric Ahmad Assir whose followers attacked troops on Sunday. At least 17 soldiers and 40 gunmen were killed in two days of clashes.
Ultraconservative Sheikh Assir has made his name by inciting Sunnis against the Syrian government, Hizbullah and Shias and had turned the mosque where he preached into an armed camp.
The army has received wide backing for its action, including from France and Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi.
On the main highway between Beirut and Damascus a bomb exploded, raising tension but causing no damage or injuries.
In Syria, al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra claimed responsibility for suicide bombings at security facilities that killed five people in the capital last weekend. The Jabhat has emerged as the most effective anti-government force in the field.
Human Rights Watch has condemned the terrorism trial, due to resume today, of Syrian lawyer Mazen Darwish and four associates who are charged with “publicising terrorist acts”.