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Saudi Arabia Turns Down UN Security Council Spot

Saudi Arabia has turned down a spot on the United Nations Security Council, saying the body has failed to resolve the Syrian civil war and other conflicts around the world.

In the rare move Friday, the Saudi foreign ministry blasted the council for failing to pass resolutions to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for his role in the country's two-and-a-half-year civil war.

In a statement carried on Saudi television, the foreign ministry also condemned what it called "double standards" on the council and called for unspecified reforms.

"The Kingdom has no other option but to turn down Security Council membership until it is reformed and given the means to accomplish its duties and assume its responsibilities in preserving the world's peace and security."

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said he believes the Saudi rejection of the council seat is unprecedented.

"Colleagues with long memories cannot recall such an instance, but they are checking back further into the depths of history to be absolutely certain about that."

Russia expressed surprise by the move, noting that the council recently passed a resolution to destroy Syria's chemical weapons.

The French ambassador to the United Nations said France understands Saudi Arabia's frustration. He said it reflects the frustration of a large part of the international community over the Security Council's inability to act due to repeated vetoes by its permanent members.

Russia and China, both permanent members of the council, have vetoed several resolutions to punish Syria's president.

The Saudi foreign ministry said the council's inaction has allowed the Syrian regime to kill its own people. It also criticized the council for its inability to solve the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he has taken note of media reports of Saudi Arabia's decision to reject its Security Council seat, but cautioned that he has received no official notification.

Saudi Arabia was elected Thursday along with Chad, Chile, Lithuania and Nigeria to serve on the Security Council starting in January. All non-permanent members are elected to two-year terms by the U.N. General Assembly.

In addition to Russia and China, the United States, Britain and France make up the other permanent members of the council.

Some countries have expressed opposition to the five permanent members' veto power, saying this allows resolutions to be halted even if they are supported by a large amount of the international community.

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