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France says Syria allies bear ‘particular responsibility’ for alleged chemical attack

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe waits for a guest at the Hotel Matignon in Paris April 9, 2018. — Reuters pic
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe waits for a guest at the Hotel Matignon in Paris April 9, 2018. — Reuters pic

PARIS, April 10 — French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said today that allies of the Syrian regime bore “particular responsibility” for a recent suspected chemical attack that has sparked international outrage.

“The use of these weapons is not neutral, it says things about the regime and our reaction to the use of these weapons will say things about who we are,” Philippe told parliament.

“It reveals the capacity and the will to use weapons which are outlawed by international law,” he said.

“The allies of the regime bear a particular responsibility in this massacre,” he said of alleged use of toxic gas against the rebel-held enclave of Douma on Saturday, which first responders said killed more than 40 people.

“There can be no credible diplomacy if such atrocities are not met with a strong, united and resolute response from the international community,” Philippe said.

Russia and Iran, the main backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in more than seven years of civil war, have dismissed the claims, with Tehran calling them a “conspiracy”.

Syria’s government has invited the global chemical arms watchdog, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, to visit Douma, state media said.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he would propose a “transparent and honest investigation” of the claims, involving the OPCW, at a UN Security Council meeting today.

Moscow had previously denounced the claims as “fabrications”, with its UN envoy warning yesterday that the possibility of military action was “very, very dangerous”.

France has repeatedly warned that evidence of the use of chemical weapons in Syria is a “red line” that would prompt French strikes on Syrian government forces.

French President Emmanuel Macron discussed the attack with US President Donald Trump yesterday night, with Trump later warning that “we have a lot of options militarily and we’ll be letting you know pretty soon.” — AFP

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