Saudis: Arming Syria rebels an "excellent idea"

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal at the Friends of Syria Conference in Tunis, Friday Feb. 24, 2012. The United States, Europe and Arab countries are set to back a proposal for Syria's president to step aside and allow in humanitarian assistance to end a brutal crackdown against opponents. AP Photo/Jason Reed

TUNIS, Tunisia - The Saudi foreign minister says arming the rebels fighting the brutal regime of President Bashar Assad is "an excellent idea."

Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal went further than any of the other Friends of Syria nations meeting in Tunis Friday to increase pressure on Assad to call for a cease-fire, step down and allow humanitarian aid to flow to hard-hit areas.

The United States, European and Arab nations were set Friday to demand that Assad agree to a cease-fire or face as-yet unspecified punishments and an increasingly emboldened and powerful armed resistance.

Asked at the start of a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton if he thought arming the Syrian opposition was a good idea, al-Faisal said: "I think it's an excellent idea."

Asked why, he said, "Because they have to protect themselves."

The group is demanding that Assad step down or face as-yet undefined punishments.

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