France stands firm on Syria intervention
FRANCE, Paris : France's President Francois Hollande speaks during a press conference after a meeting with the President of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SNC) at the Elysee presidential palace on August 29, 2013 in Paris. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD
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France has not changed its position on a possible military intervention in Syria, French President François Hollande said on Friday, following a vote in the UK’s lower house against the motion.
Hollande told French daily Le Monde in an interview that he supported taking “firm” punitive action over an attack he said had caused “irreparable” harm to the Syrian people and said he would work closely with France’s allies to punish the Bashar al-Assad regime.
Asked if France could take action without Britain, Hollande replied: “Yes. Each country is sovereign to participate or not in an operation. That is valid for Britain as it is for France.”
French defence officials said openly on Thursday for the first time that the military is preparing for a possible operation, but stopped short of announcing armed intervention.
Hollande, who does not need parliamentary approval to launch an attack, stressed in an earlier interview the importance of a political solution rather than a military one, but only if world powers were “capable” of stopping the civil war in Syria, which has killed more than 100,000 people since it began two and a half years ago.
“We will only achieve this [political solution] if the international community is capable of bringing a stop to this escalation of violence, of which the chemical massacre is just one illustration,'' Hollande said after meeting Syrian opposition leader Ahmad al-Jarba on Thursday.
On Tuesday he said that France was ready to “punish” those behind the “heinous” chemical weapons attack outside Damascus on August 21.
Barack Obama was seeking international allies on Friday after the UK vote, which came as a stunning defeat for Prime Minister David Cameron and left the US president isolated both abroad and at home.
Several US naval ships have been making their way to the eastern Mediterranean Sea in recent days, while two French anti-air frigates were heading in the same direction. France also has a dozen cruise missile-capable fighter aircraft at military bases in the United Arab Emirates and the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti.