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Arab League seeks Syria action

September 2, 2013

Arab League member countries have issued a resolution calling on the international community to take the "necessary measures" against the Syrian government after the alleged use of chemical weapons by regime troops.

Arab foreign ministers arrive and welcome with each other to an emergency meeting to discuss the Syrian crisis and the potential military strike on President Bashar al-Assad's regime, at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, September 1, 2013. (Photo via REUTERS/Amr Abdallah)
Image: Reuters

Arab foreign ministers gathered in Cairo on Sunday, agreeing on a final statement urging the United Nations and the international community to "take the deterrent and necessary measures against the culprits of this crime that the Syrian regime bears responsibility for." The statement stopped short of explicitly requesting military intervention.

They also called for those responsible for the attack to face trial as "war criminals" in international courts.

Their statement referred to the alleged chemical weapons attacks at two sites in Damascus on August 21, which US officials say killed 1,429 people.

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said a condemnation of the attack was not enough.

"Any opposition to any international action would only encourage Damascus to move forward with committing its crimes and using all weapons of mass destruction," al-Faisal said.

The US is thought to be planning some form of military intervention against the Assad regime, but President Barack Obama said at the weekend that he would wait to secure congressional approval before taking any action.

Congress is currently scheduled to reconvene after its summer break on September 9. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday told CNN and NBC television that hair and blood samples from the scene of last month's attacks "have tested positive for signatures of sarin," a nerve agent.

Limited resistance within Arab League

As a whole, the Arab League has been largely critical of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the country's civil war. Syria's neighbors Lebanon and Iraq, as well as Algeria, did not lend their support to the bloc's resolution on Sunday. Syria itself was suspended from the Arab League as a result of the conflict in November 2011.

Host country Egypt did not oppose the resolution, despite the country's interim government having said it opposed military intervention in Syria. The recent ousting of President Mohammed Morsi has put international aid to Egypt into question, with some cuts already made by the EU, and Saudi Arabia has pledged $5 billion (3.78 billion euros) to the current government in Cairo.

Ahmed al-Jarba, the head of Syria's opposition "National Coalition," addressed the Arab leaders in Cairo.

"I stand in front of you asking for your strong and effective support for a military strike against the killing and terrorism machine of the regime against his people," al-Jarba said.

France, another leading advocate of international action in Syria, said on Sunday that it would wait for a decision in the US Congress before making any decisions.

"France will not go it alone," Interior Minister Manuel Valls told Europe1 radio. "A coalition is necessary."

Germany's lead candidates for chancellor in the September 22nd election, incumbent Angela Merkel and challenger Peer Steinbrück, both said during their televised election debate on Sunday that they hoped for an international response approved at the UN Security Council. Both said that there was currently no scope for German military involvement in Syria.

msh/slk (AFP, dpa, Reuters)