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Arab League countries to create a joint Arab military force

BEIRUT |, with agencies - March 30, 2015, 08h16
The Arab League has been meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh amid the crisis in Yemen and the threat of jihadists who have made major gains in Iraq, Syria and Libya. During this conference, the heads of Arab countries have agreed to create a joint Arab military force, as reported by the BBC.
An Arab coalition force is currently carrying out air strikes against Iran-backed rebels in Yemen. The ten-nation, Saudi-led coalition is operating to support President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, who fled after gains by the Shia Houthi rebels. The United States announced that they approve the strike. The conflict is also seen as a proxy war between Sunni Arab nations and Shia Iran.

In this tense context, the Arab League has been meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, where the heads of Arab countries agreed to create a joint Arab military force. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said: "The Arab leaders have decided to agree on the principle of a joint Arab military force."

However, analysts said that establishing this force's make-up and remit could take months. They also said that it is unlikely all 22 members will join the proposed force.

The Arab League will work with military representatives of its members to organise what has been described as a voluntary force.

Egyptian officials quoted by Associated Press said the force would comprise some 40,000 elite troops, supported by war planes, naval vessels and light armour.

The creation of the joint force has long been floated within the League but has never been realised.

There has been no indication such a force would be deployed in the Yemen conflict.

However, Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi said the Saudi-led offensive against the Houthis would "continue until the militia withdraws and surrenders its weapons".

He added: "Yemen was on the brink of the abyss, requiring effective Arab and international moves after all means of reaching a peaceful resolution have been exhausted to end the Houthi coup and restore legitimacy."

Saudi Arabia says the Houthis are backed by regional rival Iran - something the rebels deny.

Mr Hadi on Saturday accused Tehran of destabilising the country, calling the Houthis the "stooges of Iran".

The Houthis have said their aim is to replace Mr Hadi's government, which they accuse of being corrupt.

In a fierce speech on Friday night, Lebanese Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, told Saudi Arabia not to try and protect a corrupted president. The speech of the Secretary general of the Party of God, strongly backed by Iran, was received as a "declaration of war" to Saudi Arabia.
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