PARIS: Promising a stern response to the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war, French President Francois Hollande warned on Tuesday that the conflict in Syria is threatening world peace.
Speaking at a conference of French ambassadors here, Hollande vowed that France would assume its international responsibilities and would take punitive action against the Syrian regime, which he said is the key suspect in having used chemical weapons in a bombardment near Damascus last Wednesday.
At least 360 people died and hundreds were wounded in the attack in the outer suburbs of the Syrian capital and UN inspectors are currently gathering evidence on what appears to be the use of toxic nerve agents.
Opposition sources say that as many as 1,300 may have died in the WMD attack but figures are difficult to corroborate. While no firm conclusion has been arrived at as yet, Western countries, including France, blame the chemical weapons use on the Syrian regime, and several important Arab nations and Turkey also point the finger at the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad. The French leader told his nations ambassadors that "the world has been astonished after the confirmation of the use of chemical weapons in Syria," although he did not say where this confirmation came from.
A UN mission is on-site to investigate other alleged cases of chemical weapons but the team has been diverted to the Damascus incident. "Everything leads us to believe that it is the regime that has committed this abject act which condemns it definitively in the eyes of the world," Hollande affirmed. He asserted that the Syrian regimes violation was even more striking as it chose to use arms that have been banned for 90 years by the international community and its conventions.
Hollande also recalled that the conflict had caused more than 100,000 lives and was "spreading to the whole region," to Lebanon, with bomb attacks, to Iraq with growing violence and to Turkey and Jordan where increased flows of refugees were creating instability.
"This (Syrian) civil war today threatens peace in the world," he warned. The President recalled the history of French action to try to find a solution in Syria and the support given to the Syrian opposition movement. Indeed, he said that after the latest actions by the regime, France has decided to increase by unspecified amounts its "military" aid to the Syrian rebels, all the while respecting European Union policies on military equipment. "Today, our responsibility is of a different kind. It is to find the most appropriate riposte to the abuses of the Syrian regime, once the UN mission of enquiry has completed the essentials of its work," he indicated.
"The chemical massacre in Damascus cannot go unanswered and France is ready to punish those who took the infamous decision to gas innocent people." Hollande said that in the past days he has had multiple contacts with Frances Western allies and with Arab nations "to envisage all options." The French presidency is summoning a special "Defence Council Meeting" on Wednesday to discuss the situation and Hollande said that the parliament would be informed in a short period of time. (KUNA)