Kuwait assembly calls for arming Syria rebels

March 01, 2012 - 11:47:31 am

KUWAIT: Kuwait's parliament called on Thursday for arms to be sent to Syrian rebels, adding to pressure in some Arab states for action to help topple the Iranian-backed president, Bashar al-Assad.

The legislature, which like those in other Gulf monarchies has few powers, voted overwhelmingly to recommend the government help arm the Free Syrian Army - a policy also publicly favoured by leaders in Qatar and in regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia.

With Arab and Western opposition to Assad stalemated at the United Nations by, among others, Russia, a legislator said the Kuwaiti foreign minister told parliament he and counterparts from the six Gulf Cooperation Council states would discuss Syria with Moscow's foreign minister in Saudi Arabia next Wednesday.

Commenting on the Kuwaiti parliamentary vote, another member, Ali al-Dekbafi, said: "Parliament has issued a recommendation stating the urgency of cutting all ties with the Syrian government and supporting the Free Syrian Army. It called for the Syrian government to face international prosecution."

While the Sunni Muslim Gulf monarchs have been alarmed by demands for democracy inspired by the popular revolts of the past year across the Arab world, they have also long been at odds with Shi'ite Iran, their non-Arab rival on the other side of the Gulf, and with Tehran's Arab ally, Alawite-ruled Syria.

The grievances of Syria's Sunni majority under Assad, whose Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, have struck a chord with both the general public and rulers in the Gulf.

A GCC official confirmed that GCC foreign ministers would meet in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Sunday and would gather there again on Wednesday for talks to which Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would be invited.

A month ago, Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that supported a call by the Arab League, to which the GCC states belong, for Assad to step aside.

The GCC - Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - has said that its members would recall ambassadors from Damascus and expel Syrian envoys. It is unclear whether all those moves have yet taken place.        (Reuters)

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