Arab nations should intervene in Syria: Qatari leader

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 25, 2012 1:37 PM
Arab nations should intervene in Syria: Qatari leader

By Amena Bakr

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Arab nations should intervene in Syria given the U.N. Security Council's failure to stop the civil war in the country, Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani said on Tuesday.

"The Security Council failed to reach an effective position. In view of this, I think that it is better for the Arab countries themselves to interfere out of their national, humanitarian, political and military duties and do what is necessary to stop the bloodshed in Syria," Sheik Hamad, speaking through an interpreter, said in a U.N. General Assembly speech.

Western powers have made clear they are opposed to direct intervention and the Security Council will not sanction action against the wishes of Russia and China. U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday called again for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but provided no clear direction forward.

Sheikh Hamad suggested that bypassing the U.N. Security Council would enable a peaceful transition of power in Syria.

"We had a similar precedent when Arab forces intervened in Lebanon in the mid-'70s ... to stop internal fighting there in a step that proved to be effective and useful," he added.

Qatar, along with Saudi Arabia and Turkey, strongly supports the mainly Sunni Muslim Syrian rebels, while Shi'ite Iran backs Assad, whose Alawite minority is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

Sheikh Hamad further urged all countries that believe in the cause of the Syrian people to provide "all sorts of support" to Syrians until they gain legitimate rights.

Activists say that 27,000 people have been killed in Syria's uprising, which began as peaceful demonstrations for reform 18 months ago but turned into an armed insurgency fighting to topple Assad, with sectarian overtones that could drag in regional powers.

Syrian authorities accuse Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey of arming the rebels.

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In July, Gulf sources told Reuters that Turkey had set up a secret base with Saudi Arabia and Qatar to direct vital military and communications aid to Syria's rebels.

The presence of the secret Middle East-run "nerve center" may explain how the Syrian rebels, a assortment of ill-armed and poorly organized groups, have pulled off major strikes such as the devastating bomb attack on July 18 that killed at least four key Assad aides including the defense minister.

However, Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani denied that Qatar had been arming the rebels, saying that his country provided logistic and humanitarian help. He added that a Sunni-Shi'ite confrontation would be catastrophic.

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Amena Bakr; Editing by Will Dunham)