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AFP

Saudi FM: World must allow Syrians to 'defend themselves'

Saudi FM Prince Saud bin al-Faisal speaks as Austrian FM Michael Spindelegger listens on, during a joint press confrence after the end of their meeing in Riyadh, on February 12, 2013. (AFP/Fayez Nureldine)

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister on Tuesday said the international community should allow Syrians to "defend themselves" against President Bashar al-Assad's regime if it is unable to intervene on their behalf.

 

"If the international community is not willing to do anything, then they must allow Syrians to defend themselves," Prince Saud al-Faisal told reporters. "The [Syrian] regime's savage aggression demands allowing the people to do so."

 

Despite being a close US ally, regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia had not shared Washington's position against arming Syrian rebels who have been locked in a 23-months bloody conflict with troops loyal to Assad.

 

On Friday the White House defended its decision not to arm Syrian rebels to ensure that weapons provided by Americans did not end up in the wrong hands and to shield Syrian civilians, Israelis and its own security.

 

Saudi Arabia, joined by Qatar, has repeatedly called for arming the rebels.

 

But in October, the New York Times said that discouraged by lack of US support, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have stopped short of arming Syrian rebels with the heavier weapons that could turn the tide of the war.

 

Prince Saud said there was "a need to unify the international vision towards the Syrian crisis," adding that "a UN intervention was necessary to end the violence" that killed over 60,000 people.

 

"The real problem is in the Syrian regime that rejects a transfer of power or any peaceful solution," the Saudi foreign minister said during a joint news conference with his Austrian counterpart Michael Spindelegger.

Saudi FM Prince Saud bin al-Faisal speaks as Austrian FM Michael Spindelegger listens on, during a joint press confrence after the end of their meeing in Riyadh, on February 12, 2013. (AFP/Fayez Nureldine)

If the international community is not willing to do anything, then they must allow Syrians to defend themselves.