Saudi Arabia condemns Iran amid Arab divisions over Syria strikes

President Farmajo leaves for Saudi Arabia to attend Arab League Summit

Opening the 29th Arab League summit, the king criticised the United States decision to transfer its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and described "terrorism" as the biggest challenge facing Arab leaders.

The move has sparked deep anger among the Palestinians - who see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state - and across the Arab world.

King Salman also announced a $50 million donation to UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the embassy is scheduled for mid-May to coincide with Israel's anniversary of its proclamation of independence on May 14, 1948.

Israel occupied mainly Palestinian east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the global community.

"We stress our absolute condemnation of the use of chemical weapons against the sisterly Syrian people and we demand an independent global investigation to guarantee the application of worldwide law to everyone proven to use chemical weapons", the group said in a statement.

King Salman said Saudi Arabia was donating $200-million to support the Palestinians, including $50-million for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Saudi Arabia pushed for a tough, unified stance against Iran at the annual gathering of the 22-member Arab League.

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Saudi Arabia and allies expressed support for the strikes on Saturday, but Iraq and Lebanon have condemned them.

The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman further stressed that Tehran's policies are based on respecting the sovereignty of other countries, and maintaining good relations with its neighbors.

Military help over the past three years from Russian Federation and Iran, which also backs Lebanon's Hezbollah group and Shi'ite Muslim militias in Iraq, has allowed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to crush the rebel threat to topple him.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters that the Arab leaders strongly condemn the use of chemical weapons and are demanding an independent worldwide probe to clarify who is responsible. Doha denies the charges.

Qatar, which has confirmed it will attend the summit, also backed the strikes.

But King Salman avoided any mention of Syria in his address, as a seat marked "Syrian Arab Republic" sat empty in the hall.

"The President will be addressing the the participants of the conference and during his stay (in Saudi Arabia) he will hold talks with other Arab leaders over Somalia's situation", said Ahmed.

Despite widespread Arab condemnation of the suspected chemical attack, the Dhahran summit is unlikely to call for Assad to step down.

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