Sunni cleric implicitly endorses Western strike on Syria's Assad

Reuters

DOHA (Reuters) - A prominent Sunni Muslim cleric offered tacit support on Friday for any Western strike on Syria in response to an apparent chemical attack on civilians, suggesting foreign powers were God's instrument for vengeance.

"We wish we were able to take revenge for our brothers who have been killed...in their hundreds, but God prepares those who would take revenge for them," Egyptian-born Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi said in his weekly sermon from Doha, where he lives.

The United States and France are contemplating military action to punish President Bashar al-Assad's government for last week's gas attack in which hundreds of people were killed in the outskirts of Damascus. Syria has denied using chemical weapons.

"We ask God to punish them for what they have done. They deserve what is happening to them," Qaradawi said, referring to Assad's forces, in a sermon broadcast on Qatar state television.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which have long backed Syrian rebels fighting to oust Assad, advocate military intervention in Syria, although some Arab countries oppose this. Britain will not join any armed action after its parliament voted the idea down.

Qaradawi, chairman of the International Federation of Muslim Scholars, has a wide following across the Arab world and has championed uprisings against Arab autocrats that began in 2011.

In June, he called for holy war against Assad's forces after Lebanon's Hezbollah movement sent Shi'ite fighters into Syria to help combat rebels mostly from the nation's Sunni majority. Assad's minority Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

(Reporting by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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