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Syria's Assad warns France of 'repercussions'
A French fighter jet. Photo: Alexander Klein/AFP

Syria's Assad warns France of 'repercussions'

Published: 02 Sep 2013 19:21 GMT+02:00
Updated: 02 Sep 2013 19:21 GMT+02:00

Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad warned Monday that Western military strikes would risk igniting a "regional war" in the "powder keg" of the Middle East, in an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro

He also said France would face "repercussions" if it took part in US-led plans for military action in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack by Assad's regime last month.

“Anyone who contributes to strengthening terrorists whether financially or militarily is an enemy of the Syrian people. Anyone who works against the interests of Syria and its citizens is an enemy," Assad told Le Figaro.

“The French people are not our enemy, but the policy of the government is hostile towards the Syrian people, so therefore the French state is an enemy of the of the Syrian people."

“This hostility will only end when the French government changes its policy. There will be repercussions, negative of course, against French interests."

Assad also told Le Figaro that the Middle East could go up in smoke once the first strikes are carried out and that "extremism and chaos" would spread throughout the region.

OPINION: Hollande 'is playing a high risk game over Syria'

“The Middle East is a powder keg and the fuse is getting shorter," he said.

"We should not just talk about Syria’s response but what might happen after the first strike. Nobody knows.

"Everyone will lose control of the situation when the powder keg explodes. Chaos and extremism will spread. There is a risk of regional war," said Assad who also castigated the US and France for not being able to provide proof that his regime was responsible for the chemical attack.

However at the same time Assad's words of warning were made public, so to were documents that claimed to prove that it was indeed his forces who were responsible for the chemical attack.

On Monday evening France's Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault made public previously secret documents that showed the August 21 chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb was carried out by President Bashar al-Assad's regime and killed at least 281 people.

A source said the toll figured in a document given by Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault to lawmakers during a meeting on the Syrian crisis, adding that the attack was "massive."

The figure was markedly lower than that provided by Washington, which spoke of at least 1,400 deaths. The United States is trying to cobble together a coalition to launch strikes on Syria.

The French intelligence report has concluded that rockets used in a deadly August 21 chemical weapons attack were fired from regime-controlled areas, a government source said on Monday.

The report also concluded that there had been "massive use of chemical agents" in the attack, which was "at a level of sophistication that can only belong to the regime."Assad's government has denied

responsibility, blaming it on opposition fighters who it says are armed by the West.

Ayrault met lawmakers to provide what it said was clear evidence that the Damascus regime was behind the attack.

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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