CAIRO - Leading Sunni Muslim clerics issued a call to jihad in Syria on Thursday at a meeting in Cairo which condemned the conflict as a "war on Islam" and said believers should use all means to ensure victory.
In one of the most powerful statements yet for holy war against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Shi'ite allies from Iran and Lebanon, Islamic scholars from across the Arab world agreed a statement read by a prominent Egyptian preacher:
"Jihad is necessary for the victory of our brothers in Syria - jihad with mind, money, weapons; all forms of jihad," Mohamed Hassan said, adding that more than 70 organizations represented had called for "support, whatever will save the Syrian people".
"What is happening to our brothers on Syrian soil, in terms of violence stemming from the Iranian regime, Hezbollah and its sectarian allies, counts as a declaration of war on Islam and the Muslim community in general," Hassan said.
Lebanon's Iran-backed Shiite movement has been fighting alongside the forces of President Bashar Al-Assad, a member of the Alawite offshoot of Shia Islam, against Syria's mainly Sunni rebels.
Among those present were Youssef al-Qaradawi, a high-profile Egyptian preacher based in Qatar, and a senior scholar from Egypt's leading religious academy Al-Azhar, Hassan al-Shafai.
The group did not explicitly repeat a call made by Qaradawi two weeks ago for able-bodied Muslims to go to fight in Syria.
Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia's top cleric Abdulaziz al-Shaikh has earlier urged governments to punish the "repulsive sectarian group."