Give Syrian rebels heavy arms, urges Saudi royal

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A SENIOR member of Saudi ­Arabia’s ruling dynasty called yesterday for Syrian rebels to be given anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to “level the playing field” in their battle against president Bashar al-Assad.

Insurgents in Syria have seized territory in the north and control suburbs to the east and south of capital Damascus, but Mr Assad’s air power and continued army strength have limited their advances 22 months into an uprising to oust him.

“What is needed are sophisticated, high-level weapons that can bring down planes, can take out tanks at a distance. This is not getting through,” said Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former intelligence chief and brother of the Saudi foreign minister.

“I’m not in government so I don’t have to be diplomatic. I assume we’re sending weapons and if we were not sending weapons it would be terrible mistake on our part,” the Saudi prince said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

King Abdullah of Jordan, which has taken in some 300,000 Syrian refugees, 20,000 of them last week, said anyone who thought Mr Assad was going to fall within weeks did not understand the complex situation and the balance of forces.

One major problem was that radical al-Qaeda forces had established themselves in Syria and were receiving money and equipment from abroad, he said.

More than 60,000 people have been killed in the conflict, according to the United Nations.