Saudi slams alleged Syria poison gas attacks

Saudi Arabia renews its demand for 'stern' world action on Syria

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Saudi Arabia on Tuesday condemned the Syrian regime’s alleged use of poison gas in central Hama, calling for “stern” action by the international community against Damascus.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said the “dangerous information on the regime’s recent use of toxic gases against civilians in the town of Kafr Zita,” in the central Hama province, represent “clear defiance” of the U.N. Security Council.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said residents choking from poisoning in the rebel-held town of Kafr Zita were hospitalized after bombing raids on Friday, AFP reported.

Activists in the area took to Facebook to accuse the regime of using chlorine gas, saying it caused “more than 100 cases of suffocation.”

Syria’s state television claimed that al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate and key force in the armed revolt, had released chlorine in a deadly attack on the town.

Saudi Arabia is one of the main backers of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which has escalated into a civil war increasingly seen as a proxy battle between Riyadh and its regional rival Iran.

The 2012 peace conference called for a transitional government ahead of free and fair elections, with no mention of Assad’s role in the transition.

Syrian daily Al-Watan reported Tuesday that parliament speaker Mohamed Jihad Lahham will next week announce the date of the country’s presidential election, expected to be held around June despite the ongoing conflict.

“The announcement by the Syrian regime to hold elections is an escalation and undermines Arab and international efforts to peacefully resolve the crisis based on the (outcomes of) the Geneva I conference,” the Saudi foreign minister said.

The international community, including U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, have criticized Syria’s plan to go ahead with the vote, which would likely see the embattled Assad win another seven-year mandate.

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