Riyadh: A senior Saudi cleric has warned Muslim fighters against going to Syria to assist rebels, saying this could lend credence to the regime’s claim it is fighting against “terrorists”.

“The arrival of youths from Libya, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Egypt to fight against the regime in Syria will only complicate the crisis and repeat the Afghanistan problem,” Salman Al Awdah wrote on his website.

“Leave Syria to Syrians as they do not lack courage or numbers... they do not need more fighters but funds and weapons,” he said, adding a small number of foreign fighters would not affect the course of the conflict.

It is difficult to estimate the number of foreign fighters in Syria, but President Bashar Al Assad’s regime claims they are in the thousands, amid reports of a rise in their numbers recently.

Awdah said the presence of Arab fighters in Syria may force “Arab and European nations to halt their support for the Syrian people in their battle against the Al Assad regime which is claiming it is fighting terrorists who infiltrated Syria.”

Awdah, a senior member of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, said he did not fear in-fighting among opposition groups in Syria, and called on them to unite.

He warned that the longer the current crisis continues, the more it will spill over and affect the entire region.