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France - Syria - US

France still on board for Syria attacks despite UK parliament vote, Hollande

President François Hollande with Syrian opposition leader Ahmad al-Jarba on Thursday
President François Hollande with Syrian opposition leader Ahmad al-Jarba on Thursday AFP
2 min

France is still ready to take part in attacks on Syria, despite the British parliament's vote against participation, President François Hollande told Le Monde newspaper on Friday. Although strikes should not take place before UN inspectors have finished their investigation in Damascus, they could be launched before a special meeting of the French parliament on Wednesday, he said.

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"France wants a firm, proportionate action against the Damascus regime," Hollande told Le Monde, insisting that Paris can take such action without British support.

 "Every country is sovereign when it comes to taking part in an operation or not," the president said. "That goes as much for France as for the United Kingdom."

No action should be taken before the UN inspectors finish their investigation into who was responsible for this month's chemical attack in Damascus has finished, Hollande said.

But they are expected to complete their task on Friday and he did not rule out action before Wednesday's emergency debate in the French parliament if evidence that Bashar al-Assad's regime was responsible for the atrocity is presented.

Hollande is to have an "in-depth" phone discussion with US President Barack Obama, he told the paper, pointing out that, even if he is counting on support from other European powers and the Arab League, France is one of the few countries with the "capacity to inflict punishment with the appropriate means".

On Thursday Hollande appeared to soften his stance slightly with a call for a "political solution" if possible but on Friday he insisted that "the Damascus massacre must not remained unpunished" while opposing an attempt to "liberate" Syria and topple Assad.

Germany will not take part in a military strike on Syria, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung on Friday.

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