The heads of Arab League countries meeting in Egypt have agreed to create a joint Arab military force. The League has been meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh amid a crisis in Yemen and the threat of jihadists who have made major gains in Iraq, Syria and Libya. However, establishing the make-up and remit of the force could take months, analysts say. A 10-nation, Saudi-led coalition is currently carrying out air strikes against rebels in Yemen. The strikes are in support of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, who fled after gains by the Shia Houthi rebels. Correspondents have described the conflict as a proxy war between Sunni Arab nations and Shia Iran.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said: "The Arab leaders have decided to agree on the principle of a joint Arab military force." The Arab League will work with military representatives of its members to organise what has been described as a voluntary force. Analysts say it is unlikely all 22 members will join the proposed force. Egyptian officials quoted by Associated Press said the force would comprise some 40,000 elite troops, supported by war planes, naval vessels and light armour. The creation of the joint force has long been floated within the League but has never been realised. There has been no indication such a force would de deployed in the Yemen conflict. However, Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi said the Saudi-led offensive against the Houthis would "continue until the militia withdraws and surrenders its weapons". He added: "Yemen was on the brink of the abyss, requiring effective Arab and international moves after all means of reaching a peaceful resolution have been exhausted to end the Houthi coup and restore legitimacy."
Saudi Arabia says the Houthis are backed by regional rival Iran - something the rebels deny. Mr Hadi on Saturday accused Tehran of destabilising the country, calling the Houthis the "stooges of Iran".
The Houthis have said their aim is to replace Mr Hadi's government, which they accuse of being corrupt.
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