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Saudi Arabia forms 34-nation 'anti-terrorist' military coalition

Saudi minister says no operation is 'off the table' as it announces new coalition to confront 'any terrorist organisation that appears'
Saudi Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz (L) and and Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdul Aziz (R) in Riyadh on 26 March 2015 (AFP)

Saudi Arabia has announced the creation of a 34-nation coalition to "fight terrorism", stating that "nothing is off the table" in terms of operations and deployments.

The announcement on Tuesday said the coaliton would be based in Riyadh "to coordinate and support military operations to fight terrorism", and includes Middle Eastern, African and Asian states. However, Iran is not part of the coalition.

The Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, said it would share intelligence and deploy troops if necessary. "If countries need help they can ask for assistance... on a case-by-case basis," he said while in Paris. "In terms of the operations nothing is off the table."

The coalition would tackle "the Islamic world's problem with terrorism and will be a partner in the worldwide fight against this scourge" said the Saudi defence minister, Mohammad bin Salman al-Saud in Riyadh.

It would fight "any terrorist organisation that appears", said bin Salman when asked if the alliance would concentrate on fighting the Islamic State group. 

 
      

Nations in the coalition

Arab countries: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Tunisia, Djibo uti, Sudan, Somalia, Palestinian Territories, Comoros, Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Egypt, Morocco, Mauritania and Yemen.

African countries: Benin, Chad, Togo, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Gabon, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Nigeria.

Asian countries: Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Malaysia.

Others: Turkey.

More than 10 other "Islamic countries" had expressed support for the coalition, including Indonesia, it said. 

"These countries have procedures to go through before joining the coalition, but out of keenness to achieve this coalition as soon as possible, (this alliance of) 34 countries has been announced," said the Saudi minister.

The announcement came on the day peace talks began to end the war in Yemen between the Saudi-backed president, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, and the Houthi movement, which has been accused of being supported by Iran as it took control of large parts of the country. 

Saudi Arabia formed a coalition of Gulf states, plus Egypt, to confront the Houthis, who they regard as "terrorists". Egypt has yet to send any ground forces to Yemen.

Sunni Islam's leading seat of learning, Al-Azhar, urged all Muslim countries to join the new 34-nation coalition.

The Cairo-based institution hailed the formation of the 34-nation alliance announced by Saudi Arabia as "historic", and said it hoped it would defeat the "evils of terrorism".

"This was an urgent demand of the people of Islamic countries who have suffered more than others from this black terrorism," Al-Ahzar said in a statement.

"Al-Azhar calls on all Islamic countries to join this coalition to counter terrorism... that has committed horrible crimes indiscriminately."