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Saudi royal calls for UN resolution to pull out Shi'ites from Syria

Source: Reuters - Fri, 24 Jan 2014 13:42 GMT
Author: Reuters
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(Changes dateline to DAVOS, Switzerland)

DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 24 (Reuters) - A senior member of the Saudi royal family attacked the United States on Friday over its policy on Syria, and called for a United Nations resolution to pull "Iraqi and Lebanese Shi'ite militia" out of the war-torn Middle bEastern country.

Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former intelligence chief and an outspoken critic of President Barack Obama's administration since it started secret nuclear talks with Iran, said the world was disappointed with the "sense of no direction" in U.S. foreign policy.

"I want the Americans to go to the Security Council and get a resolution that forces should be deployed to stop the fighting in Syria," he told the World Economic Forum in Davos. "If that is not available, then at least a humanitarian corridor to allow people not to starve."

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have backed the main Sunni Muslim opposition Syrian National Coalition and the Free Syrian Army with weapons, training, money and military intelligence in the fight against President Bashar al-Assad's government.

Iran has been one of Assad's biggest support in a conflict that has left more than 110,000 Syrians dead and forced more than 2 million to flee.

Western countries have so far held back from providing rebels with heavy arms such as anti-tank weapons and missile launchers for fear they could fall into the wrong hands.

Prince Turki said Iraqi militia and Lebanese Shi'ite Hezbollah fighters outnumbered radical Sunni militants fighting in Syria.

"I'm not saying Sunnis should go fight," he said. "You have to get these (Shi'ite) people out. The only way to do it is by a concerted international effort led by the United States and supported by the U.S. allies to force these people to stop the fighting."

Saudi Arabia, a historical U.S. ally, has been dismayed that Washington worked behind its back to hash out an interim agreement granting Iran limited sanctions relief in exchange for temporary restraints on Tehran's nuclear programme.

Riyadh, like Western countries, believes that drive is aimed at producing weapons - a charge Iran denies.

Asked whether Saudi Arabia has been blindsided, Prince Turki said: "Absolutely. On the Syria issue among other things, the (U.S.) policy hasn't been clear and definitely the actions have not been clear either. This disturbs America's allies because we've grown to depend on America."

"It is not just about Iran (and) Syria, it's the sense of no direction," he said. (Reporting By Mirna Sleiman; Editing by Paul Taylor)

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