Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Saudi says Syrians right to defend selves

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Saudi Arabia said Sunday that Syrians have a right to take up arms to defend themselves against the regime and accused the Damascus government of "imposing itself by force," as concerns mounted over a humanitarian crisis there.

In a rare televised news conference, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said the kingdom welcomed international efforts to broker a cease-fire in Syria but added that they have "failed to stop the massacres."

"Is there something greater than the right to defend oneself and to defend human rights," he said, adding that the Syrian people want to defend themselves. "The regime is not wanted by the people," he said.

"The regime is insisting on imposing itself by force on the Syrian people," he said.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been discussing military aid to the Syrian opposition, but the United States and others have not advocated arming the rebels, in part out of fear it would create an even more bloody and prolonged conflict.

Saudi Arabia is wary of the wave of Arab Spring uprisings, particularly in nearby Bahrain, where a Shiite majority is demanding greater rights from its Sunni rulers. However, the kingdom, which is led by Sunnis, strongly backs the largely Sunni uprising in Syria.

On Sunday Red Cross teams handed out food, blankets and medical kits in central Homs province, but the government continued to block access to the worst-hit district of Baba Amr.

The humanitarian group was trying to help families who fled Baba Amr after a monthlong siege and took shelter in nearby villages, ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan said in Geneva.

"The needs are so far mainly in the forms of food and also blankets because of the cold," he said.

Government forces have blocked humanitarian access to Baba Amr since Friday, the day after troops seized it from rebels. Opposition fighters had been in control of the neighborhood for several months, and a regime offensive that began in early February aimed to retake rebel-held neighborhoods inside Homs.

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