France claims Assad did use chemicals in Syria attack
The French government has alleged there was a "massive use of chemical agents" by the Syrian regime in last month's attack – and warned of other strikes of a similar nature in the future.
The government published a nine-page synopsis yesterday from the French intelligence service about Syria's chemical weapons programme that found that at least 281 deaths could be attributed to the attack in areas outside Damascus. The analysis based that count in part from dozens of videos culled by French intelligence services.
President Francois Hollande has backed a call from President Barack Obama for a military strike against Syrian President Bashar Assad's government in retaliation for the attack.
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault hosted lawmakers, his defence and foreign ministers, and intelligence and security officials to discuss Syria.
FREE home energy survey - BEAT THE ENERGY PRICE CRUNCH!View details
Call us on 01271 323309 and book your FREE home energy survey during December. Let us help you reduce your energy bills as well as your carbon footprint.
Valid until 20th Dec 2013
Consultation is completely free
No obligation and impartial advice
Contact: 01271 440974
Valid until: Friday, December 20 2013
France's parliament is to debate Syria on Wednesday, but no vote is scheduled. The French constitution doesn't require such a vote for Mr Hollande to be able to authorise military action
The extract from the intelligence service report said: "The analysis of intelligence that we possess today leads us to estimate that on Aug. 21, 2013, the Syrian regime launched an attack on some areas of the Damascus suburbs held by opposition units, bringing together conventional means and the massive use of chemical agents.''
After talks to discuss the findings, Mr Ayrault said France is "determined to take action against the use of chemical weapons by the regime of Bashar Assad, and to dissuade it from doing so again. This act cannot go without a response."
Mr Ayrault added that France would not act alone and that Mr Hollande was "continuing his work of persuasion to bring together a coalition as soon as possible".
The intelligence estimate also said it did not appear to be the first time that chemical weapons were used in Syria this year. It said French intelligence services had collected urine, blood, soil and munitions samples from two attacks in April – in Saraqeb and Jobar – that confirmed the use of sarin gas.
"These past events and the simultaneous and massive use of chemical agents in the night of Aug. 21, 2013 in the Damascus suburbs confirm that the Syrian regime deliberately crossed a line," it said. "Our services have information ... leading us to believe that other actions of this nature could be carried out again."
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama is hoping his opponent in the 2008 presidential election will help sell the idea of US military intervention in Syria to the nation.
Having announced that he will seek congressional approval for military strikes against the Assad regime, the Obama administration is now trying to rally support among Americans and their congressman and senators – including the key figure of John McCain. He has invited Mr McCain to the White House to address concerns of those who feel he is not doing enough to punisht Bashar Assad's government for the chemical weapons attack in Damascus. On the other side of the coin, some Republican and Democratic lawmakers don't want to see military action at all.
Secretary of State John Kerry has said the US received new physical evidence in the form of blood and hair samples that shows sarin gas was used in the August 21 attack and the US must respond with its credibility on the line.