Middle East News
Arab countries to arm Syria rebels, activists say
Apr 2, 2012, 12:38 GMT
Beirut - Arab countries have pledged to arm Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad's forces, opposition activists said on Monday.
'The Free Syrian Army will be armed by some friendly countries but this will not be done in the open and will be very soon,' Sheikh Anas Airout, a member of the Syrian National Council, told dpa.
'Arming the rebels is essential because if they do not, then this regime will continue to kill the innocent people of Syria,' Sheikh Airout said.
Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Libya are the key financial backers of the plan to arm the Syrian rebels, an opposition source who requested anonymity told dpa.
Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United States have pledged millions of dollars at a Friends of the Syrian People conference in Istanbul at the weekend to pay salaries for rebels fighting to topple al-Assad and provide communications equipment.
The Syrian state-run al-Baath newspaper dismissed the conference as a failure and said it 'showed no one is able to shake Syrians' rejection of foreign intervention.'
An Arab diplomat in Beirut said that the international community has still not 'fully' backed plans by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries to arm the Syrian rebels because the fighters are still not organized under one command.
The Arab diplomat said the pledge to pay and arm the rebels was designed to encourage more high-ranking Syrian army officers to defect.
Haytham al-Manaa, an opposition activists, said that 'sending weapons to the opposition fighters now, will be a prelude to lead Syria into a civil war.'
'The Syrian Free Army does not have a united decision, each brigade works on its own,' al-Manaa said.
The poorly armed rebels have suffered heavy losses and lost several strongholds to the Syrian army, forcing them to to retreat as they could not face up to the better-armed Syrian army.
In the northern province of Idlib, two soldiers died in clashes with rebel fighters near the Turkish border, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human rights said. It added that seven people were also killed in shelling attacks by the Syrian army on the village Haas, in Idlib.
There was also fighting in Daraa, near the border with Jordan.
Six people were killed when soldiers at an army checkpoint fired at a car in the village of Kussair, near the Lebanese border, activists based in the area told dpa.
In the capital Damascus, a bomb blast near a police headquarters in Marjeh area wounded several policemen, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan will brief the UN Security Council on recent visits to Russia and China, key Syria allies, and the his efforts to implement a plan to end the violence.
Western and Arab nations on Sunday warned al-Assad to stop delaying the adoption of the peace plan.
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