March 1, 2012 / 2:36 PM / 5 years ago

Arab League chief says fuelling violence will not help Syria

CAIRO (Reuters) - Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby said on Thursday he was opposed to violence as a way to end the Syrian crisis after Gulf states called for arming the rebels seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have led the Arab charge to isolate Syria, although other leading Arab states outside the Gulf such as Egypt, Algeria and Iraq have taken a more cautious approach.

Kuwait's parliament on Thursday joined calls for arms to be sent to Syrian rebels.

"I am against using violence and the Arab League has no link to arming," Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby told a news conference at the League headquarters in Cairo.

The League passed a resolution in February calling for Arabs to "provide all kinds of political and material support" to the opposition, a statement that Arab diplomats confirmed at the time could be interpreted as permitting arms shipments.

However, they said some Arab states who backed the resolution opposed the idea of sending weapons, a move they saw as pushing Syria closer to civil war.

Elaraby said he hoped for a ceasefire that would allow humanitarian aid to enter Syria, where protests flared up almost a year ago and were confronted by troops and heavy weaponry.

"What is happening in Syria, the abuses, killings and sometimes starvation, is a very bad situation," he said. "We hope that this stops so that it doesn't turn into a civil war."

The League will host a conference in Cairo for the Syrian opposition within two weeks to help them unify their ranks, Elaraby said. Arab diplomats say divisions in the opposition are preventing Arabs from any move to formally recognise it.

"What is demanded now from the (Syrian) National Council (SNC) and all the opposition is to unite their ranks and this is something that the League is asked to do," he said.

The United Nations says Assad's security forces have killed more than 7,500 civilians since the revolt began last March. Syria's government said in December that "armed terrorists" had killed more than 2,000 soldiers and police during the unrest.

Reporting By Tamim Elyan; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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