Saudi Arabia rejects seat on UN Security Council

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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- Saudi Arabia on Friday rejected its freshly-acquired seat on the U.N. Security Council, saying the 15-member body is incapable of resolving world conflicts such as the Syrian civil war.

The move came just hours after the kingdom was elected as one of the Council's 10 nonpermanent members on Thursday night. It also followed another gesture of displeasure from the kingdom in which Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal declined to address the General Assembly meeting last month.

The Saudi discontent stems from its frustration with longtime ally United States. The two are at odds over a number of Mideast issues, including how Washington has handled some of the region's crises, particularly in Egypt and Syria. It also comes as ties between the U.S. and Iran, the Saudi's regional foe, appear to be improving following a recent telephone conversation between President Barack Obama and Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani.

In a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency, the Foreign Ministry said Friday the Security Council has failed in its duties toward Syria.

It said this has enabled Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime to perpetrate the killings of its people, including with chemical weapons, without facing any punishment. The Syrian regime denies it has used chemical weapons in the war.

The kingdom, which has backed the Syrian rebels in their struggle to topple Assad, has often criticized the international community for failing to halt Syria's civil war, now in its third year. According to U.N. figures, the conflict has so far killed over 100,000 people.

Saudi Arabia is also frustrated that the U.S. backed away from launching punitive strikes against Assad's forces after Damascus agreed to allow inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal.

The kingdom easily won the Security Council seat in a vote in New York on Thursday, facing no opposition because there were no contested races for the first time in several years. The Council seats are highly coveted because they give countries a strong voice in matters dealing with international peace and security, in places like Syria, Iran and North Korea, as well as the U.N.'s far-flung peacekeeping operations.

The 15-member council includes five permanent members with veto power - the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France - and 10 nonpermanent members elected for two-year terms.

After the vote, Saudi Arabia's U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi said his country's election was "a reflection of a longstanding policy in support of moderation and in support of resolving disputes by peaceful means."

But the statement from Riyadh on Friday struck a dramatically different tone.

"Allowing the ruling regime in Syria to kill its people and burn them with chemical weapons in front of the entire world and without any deterrent or punishment is clear proof and evidence of the U.N. Security Council's inability to perform its duties and shoulder its responsibilities," the Saudi Foreign Ministry said.

The foreign ministry statement also said the U.N. Security Council has not been able to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict over the past six decades and has failed to transform the Middle East into a zone free of weapons of mass destruction - a reference to Israel, which has never confirmed or denied possession of nuclear weapons.

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Associated Press writer Maamoun Youssef contributed to this report from Cairo.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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