Opposition chief Moaz al-Khatib took Syria’s seat at the Arab League yesterday as leaders gathered for the annual summit in Doha gave member states the “right” to arm rebels in the war-torn country.

The summit affirmed the “right of every state to offer all forms of self-defence, including military, to support the resistance of the Syrian people and the Free Syrian Army”, a resolution said.

However, “efforts aimed at reaching a political solution to the Syrian crisis are a priority,” it added.

Launching into a fiery speech after leading an opposition delegation into the Doha meeting to thunderous applause from Arab leaders, Khatib also demanded that the opposition be allowed to represent Syria at the UN.

Khatib, who announced his resignation on Sunday, made it clear that he was still firmly at the helm of the Syrian National Coalition, the main opposition umbrella grouping.

Taking the seat at the invitation of HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, Khatib was flanked by other senior opposition figures, including newly-elected rebel Prime Minister Ghassan Hitto.

“We demand... all forms of support from our friends and brothers including our full right for self-defence and the seat of Syria at the UN and at other international organisations,” he said.

He called for a “freezing of the funds of the regime which it stole from our people,” estimated by the opposition at around $2bn.

He also stressed that the Syrian people alone would determine the future of their country.

“They ask who will rule Syria. The people of Syria will decide, not any other state in this world,” Khatib said.

The seat has been empty since Syria was suspended in November 2011 after Damascus rejected calls to end violence against protesters and instead pressed a bloody crackdown on dissent.

Protests escalated into an armed rebellion against Assad’s regime and later into a civil war in which the UN says more than 70,000 people have been killed.

Khatib made no mention of his resignation and said ahead of the summit that it would be dealt with after the meeting is over.

Spokesman Khaled al-Saleh said the resignation “has not been accepted” and that “most members of the coalition want him to continue to lead” at this time.

Khatib pointedly expressed his confidence in Hitto.

“We trust him. The general assembly of the coalition awaits his programme to debate it,” he said.




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