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Arab League Draft Resolution Declares 'Right' To Arm Syrian Rebels

  • RFE/RL

Moaz al-Khatib, head of the Syrian opposition delegation, appears on-screen as he addresses the opening of the Arab League summit in Doha on March 26.

Moaz al-Khatib, head of the Syrian opposition delegation, appears on-screen as he addresses the opening of the Arab League summit in Doha on March 26.

Arab League leaders who have gathered for a summit in Qatar have drafted a resolution that would give member states the “right” to offer Syrian rebels all means of self-defense – including military support and supplies of weapons.

The draft resolution at the summit in Doha also reportedly urges regional and international organizations to recognize the opposition National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

Arab states are not subject to the European Union and U.S. arms embargoes on Syria, allowing them to supply the rebels with weapons.

Earlier on March 26, the Arab League opened its two-day summit with the Qatari emir inviting Syria’s opposition to take over Syria’s seat.

The Arab League suspended the Syrian government's membership in late 2011 in protest of the conflict which has gripped the nation since March 2011.

"The [Arab] League has handed Syria's stolen seat to bandits and thugs," Syrian state media said on March 26.

The meeting comes amid internal conflicts in the opposition Syrian National Council.

Its leader, Moaz al-Khatib, resigned on March 24 but spoke at the summit, saying the government of Bashar al-Assad bears responsibility for rejecting solutions to the conflict.

Khatib said he has asked the United States to provide Patriot missile system to protect rebel-held areas.

"We thank all world governments, but I say that the role of the United States is much bigger than [financial support]," he said. "I have asked [U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry] to extend the umbrella of the Patriot missiles to cover the Syrian north and he promised to examine this matter. We are still waiting for a decision from NATO to protect people's lives -- not to fight, but to protect lives."

Khatib also demanded the opposition be allowed to represent Syria at the United Nations. He also stressed the Syrian people should determine their country’s future without “any foreign mandates.”

The opposition council has been in turmoil after the selection of an Islamist-leaning figure, Ghassan Hitto, to be its prime minister despite the objections of many council members.

Fighting Rages

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom to head a UN investigation into allegations that chemical weapons have been used in Syria.

Sellstrom was a UN chemical weapons inspector in Iraq before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

UN spokesman Martin Nesirky called him "an accomplished scientist with a solid background in disarmament and international security."

The UN investigation will look into allegations chemical weapons were used in an attack in northern Syria on March 19.

Syrian government forces and rebels have blamed each other for the alleged chemical attack.

The Syrian government demanded the investigation.

The UN secretary-general has suggested the probe could be broadened to look into two other incidents in which rebels allege that government forces used chemical weapons.

In other Syrian developments, state media said a suicide car bombing in Damascus has killed at least four people.

The state SANA news agency said a suicide bomber blew up his vehicle in the northern part of the Syrian capital.

It blamed the bombing on "terrorists," a term it uses to refer to rebels.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was not clear whether the explosion was caused by a bomb or a mortar round.

The explosion occurred near a military supply center. It also injured an unspecified number of people.

Both state media and opposition activists said military personnel were among the casualties.

The United Nations estimates that more than 70,000 people have died in Syria's civil war.

More than 1 million Syrians have been registered as refugees since the fighting began, with UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres saying that number could double or even triple by the end of the year.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and AP