Jeddah, (Arab News): Saudi Arabia on Tuesday urged the international community to take a “decisive and serious” stand against the regime of Bashar Assad for massacring Syrian people using chemical and other destructive weapons.
“The rejection of the Syrian regime of all serious and earnest Arab efforts and the horrible massacres he committed against his people … requires a decisive and serious stand by the international community to end the humanitarian tragedy of the Syrian people,” said Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal.
Addressing a meeting of the Saudi-Moroccan Joint Commission in Jeddah, Prince Saud said Assad’s regime has lost its Arab identity and it no longer belongs to the Syrian civilization that has been held in high esteem in the Arab world.
The Arab League said on Tuesday that those behind the chemical attack in Syria should face international justice, and called on UN Security Council members to overcome their differences and take action.
It said it held the Syrian government fully responsible for last week’s gas attack and “demands that all the perpetrators of this heinous crime be presented for international trials.”
It also urged the Council to “overcome the differences among its members by taking the necessary … resolutions against the perpetrators of this crime, for which the Syrian regime bears responsibility, and to end the violations and crimes of genocide that the Syrian regime has been carrying out for over two years.”
Western powers have told the Syrian opposition to expect a strike within days, according to sources who attended a meeting between envoys and the Syrian National Coalition in Istanbul.
“The opposition was told in clear terms that action to deter further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime could come as early as in the next few days, and that they should still prepare for peace talks at Geneva,” one of the sources who was at the meeting said. The US defense chief said Tuesday his forces are ready to launch strikes.
Speaking in Brunei, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the military was prepared to act once President Barack Obama gave the order. “We are prepared. We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take,” he said. “We are ready to go, like that.”
The Washington Post cited senior US administration officials as saying such action would probably last no more than two days and involve missiles or long-range bombers, striking military targets not directly linked to Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.
In Paris, French President Francois Hollande said his country was “ready to punish” those behind the chemical attacks.
But UK’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said Britain was not seeking to topple Assad. “What we’re considering is a serious response… What we’re not considering is regime change,” he said.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, said the chemical attack was a “crime against humanity” that “cannot go unpunished.”
Syria Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said Damascus would defend itself against any strikes. “We have two options — either to surrender, or to defend ourselves with the means at our disposal,” he said. “The second choice is the best: We will defend ourselves.” Muallem said Syria had capabilities that would “surprise” the world, and warned that any military action against it would serve the interests of Israel and Al-Qaeda.
Russia warned that any use of force would have “catastrophic consequences” in the region.