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World

REUTERS
April 17, 2018

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Arab leaders call for probe into Syria chemical attacks, condemn Iran

DHAHRAN, Saudi Arabia: An Arab League summit called for an international probe into the "criminal" use of chemical weapons in Syria and condemned what it saw as Iran´s interference in the affairs of other countries.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have for decades been locked in a struggle for regional supremacy that is now being played out in proxy wars in several countries, including Yemen and Syria. "We stress our absolute condemnation of the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people and we demand an independent international investigation to guarantee the application of international law against anyone proven to have used chemical weapons," said a statement distributed to journalists. It emphasised the need for a political solution to the multi-sided Syrian war.

Saudi Arabia and its allies have expressed support for Saturday´s missile strikes by the United States, Britain and France against alleged chemical weapons facilities in Syria, while Iraq and Lebanon condemned the strikes.

Damascus denies using or possessing chemical weapons and called the strikes an act of aggression. Military help over the past three years from Russia and Iran, which also backs Lebanon´s Hezbollah and Shi´ite Muslim militias in Iraq, has allowed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to crush the rebel threat to topple him.

The communique called for more international sanctions on Iran and urged it to withdraw "its militias" from Syria and Yemen. "The summit condemned Iranian interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries, either through igniting sectarian strife or planting militias in Arab countries such as Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen, and harbouring al Qaeda terrorists," Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told a news conference. Iran, which denies the accusations, rejected the condemnation as the result of Saudi pressure.

"The heavy shadow of destructive Saudi policies is evident in ... the final statement of the summit," Iranian state media quoted Iran´s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi as saying in Tehran.

Saudi Arabia, which takes over the rotating chair of the Arab summit from Jordan, announced that this gathering would be named the "Quds (Jerusalem) Summit", a reference to US President Donald Trump´s decision last year to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which Arab states condemned.

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