• Arab leaders want end to Syrian strife

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    KUWAIT CITY: Syria’s opposition called for “sophisticated” arms at an Arab summit in Kuwait on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) while Saudi Arabia said the military balance needed to change to “end the impasse” in Syria’s civil war.

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    But United Nations-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi insisted on the need for a “political solution” to the three-year conflict, urging an “end to the supply of arms to all parties.”

    Opposition Syrian National Coalition chief Ahmed Jarba repeated calls on the international community to supply rebels with “sophisticated weapons” as the two-day summit opened.

    “I do not ask you for a declaration of war,” said Jarba, urging Arab leaders to put pressure on world powers to fulfill pledges to supply arms.

    Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, whose country is a key backer of the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad, said the world was “betraying” rebels by failing to arm them and leaving them as “easy prey.”

    A solution to the conflict, in which regime forces have recently made significant advances, requires a “change in the balance on the ground to end the impasse,” he said.

    National Coalition spokesman Louay Safi said rebels urgently needed “anti-aircraft missiles” to defend against barrel bombs that regime forces have been raining down on fighters and civilians alike.

    The conflict in Syria, which entered a fourth year on March 15, has killed more than 146,000 people and displaced millions.

    Meanwhile, Jarba said a decision not to hand over Syria’s seat in the Arab League to the opposition sends a wrong message to Assad, telling him to continue “to kill.”

    “Let me say quite frankly that keeping Syria’s seat empty . . . sends a clear message to Assad that he can kill and that the seat will wait for him,” he said.

    The government’s brutal repression of protests that erupted in March 2011, which led to the war, resulted in its suspension from the 22-member Cairo-based Arab League.

    Brahimi urged a revival of peace talks.

    “I call upon Europe, the United Nations and the United States to take clear steps to reactivate the Geneva talks,” which broke off on February 15.

    “There is no military solution,” he stressed.

    On the humanitarian front, the president Lebanon, one of several Syrian neighbors dealing with refugees, told the evening session his country was overburdened by the influx and called for help.

    Michel Sleiman said Lebanon was no longer capable of accepting more Syrian refugees. who now make up 32 percent of the population.

    He warned without elaborating that, if Beirut does not receive help, “we may look into legal ways to stop their influx.”

    Meanwhile, a regional rift over Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has been kept off the summit agenda.

    AFP

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