Arab League agrees members have right to arm Syrian rebels | News | DW | 26.03.2013
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Arab League agrees members have right to arm Syrian rebels

An Arab League summit agreed that member states have the right to give military backing to Syrian rebels. Meanwhile, the UN announced details of an investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Arab Leaders who met in Doha on Tuesday agreed that individual member states had the "right" to give Syrian rebels all means of self-defense, including the supply of weapons.

A draft document was agreed upon at the meeting which noted that a political solution was the priority in ending the Syrian crisis, now entering its third year.

However, the wording of the summit document said that it affirmed "every state's right, according to its desire, to present all kinds of measures for self-defense, including military ones, to support the steadfastness of the Syrian people and the Free Army."

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Opposition represents Syria at Arab League

Meanwhile, a delegation led by the former president of the main opposition alliance, Mouaz Al-Khatib, took the seat normally assigned to Syria at the invitation of the Emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. Iraq and Algeria were said to have been opposed to the move, with Lebanon also reportedly distancing itself. The group replaced the Syrian national flag with a green, white and black design - the same as that used when Syria gained independence in 1946 - used by the rebels.

'Restoration of legitimacy'

Al-Khatib, who resigned from his position at the weekend, was joined for the meeting by newly-elected Prime Minister Ghassan Hitto.

"This seat is part of restoring the legitimacy that the Syrian people have lost long ago," said al-Khatib.

The summit which had been due to take place over two days, was rescheduled to end on Tuesday evening.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday appointed a Swedish professor to lead a fact-finding mission into the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria. Formerly a weapons inspector in Iraq, Ake Sellstrom, was described in a UN statement as "an accomplished scientist with a solid background in disarmament and international security."

Ban told permanent UN Security Council members that they would be excluded from the inquiry. That decision was taken due to mounting tension between council members over the conflict, diplomatic sources said.

Syria last week asked for an investigation into allegation that the opposition used chemical weapons in Aleppo on March 19. Britain and France, meanwhile, called for inquiry into government use of the weapons.

rc/kms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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