SUN 18 - 2 - 2018
Feb 14, 2018
The Daily Star
France says Syria red line only crossed if gas attacks "lethal" - minister
PARIS: France's foreign minister sought Wednesday to clarify his government's position on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, saying that Paris would only strike if the attacks were lethal and carried out by government forces.
President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday that "France will strike" if chemical weapons are used against civilians in the Syrian conflict in violation of international treaties, but that he had not yet seen proof this was the case.
Macron said last May that the use of chemical weapons would represent a "red line". In a telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday expressed concern over signs that chlorine bombs had been used against civilians in Syria.
"(The president) confirmed that he would proceed to military strikes against regime installations if there was a new use of chemical weapons by Bashar al-Assad's forces when these attacks are lethal and regime's responsibility is proven," Jean-Yves Le Drian told lawmakers.
Syria denies possessing chemical arms, says use 'unacceptable'
Agence France Presse
DAMASCUS: The Syrian government Wednesday denied it possessed chemical weapons and branded the use of such arms "immoral and unacceptable", following a French warning of punitive strikes.
"Syria's government categorically denies possessing... chemical weapons. We consider the use of such arms as immoral and unacceptable, whatever the context," said Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, quoted by state news agency SANA.
On Tuesday, France's President Emmanuel Macron warned his country would launch strikes if proof emerged that the Syrian regime had used banned chemical weapons against its civilians.
According to Washington, at least six chlorine attacks have been reported since early January in rebel-held areas, resulting in dozens of injuries.
Damascus last month also denied carrying out chemical attacks and its ally Moscow denounced such charges as a "propaganda campaign", stressing the perpetrators had not been identified.
France, like the United States, suspects the Syrian regime but says it does not yet have concrete evidence on the nature and origin of the attacks.
Damascus has repeatedly been accused of using chemical weapons, with the United Nations among those blaming government forces for an April 2017 sarin gas attack on the opposition-held village of Khan Sheikhun that left scores dead.
In retaliation for that alleged attack the U.S. carried out cruise missile strikes on a Syrian regime airbase.
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