Arab leaders call for probe into Syria chemical attacks, condemn Iran

by The Region   Reuters  

 

The Arab League called on Sunday (April 15) for an international probe into the "criminal" use of chemical weapons in Syria and condemned what it saw as Iran's interference in the affairs of other countries.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have for decades been locked in a struggle for regional supremacy that is now being played out in proxy wars in several countries, including Yemen and Syria.

"We stress our absolute condemnation of the use of chemical weapons and consider it a crime and demand an independent investigation," Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told a news conference.

A statement distributed to journalists emphasised the need for a political solution to the multi-sided Syrian war.

Saudi Arabia and its allies have expressed support for Saturday's (April 14) missile strikes by the United States, Britain and France against alleged chemical weapons facilities in Syria, while Iraq and Lebanon condemned the strikes.

Damascus denies using or possessing chemical weapons and called the strikes an act of aggression.

Military help over the past three years from Russia and Iran, which also backs Lebanon's Hezbollah and Shi'ite Muslim militias in Iraq, has allowed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to crush the rebel threat to topple him.

The communique called for more international sanctions on Iran and urged it to withdraw "its militias" from Syria and Yemen. Iran denies the accusations.

Saudi Arabia, which takes over the rotating chair of the Arab summit from Jordan, announced that this gathering would be named the "Quds (Jerusalem) Summit", a reference to U.S. President Donald Trump's decision last year to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which Arab states condemned.

Delegates pledged to support the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state. King Salman said Saudi Arabia was donating $200 million to help them, including $50 million for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Qatar did not send a senior official, a sign that its 10-month-old dispute with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt is still a long way from being resolved.

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