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SYRIA

France sends US ‘all it has’ on sarin gas in Syria

France's foreign minister Laurent Fabius has sent his US counterpart John Kerry "all the information France has" as proof that the Assad regime in Syria used deadly sarin gas in at least one incident, it emerged on Thursday.

France sends US 'all it has' on sarin gas in Syria
French Foreign minister Laurent Fabius (L) pictured with US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) in Paris in March 2013. Photo: Jason Reed/AFP

France has sent the United States "all the information it has" on what it has billed as proof that chemical weapons have been used in Syria, a foreign ministry spokesman said on Thursday.

The move follows a request on Wednesday from US Secretary of State John Kerry amid mounting pressure for the United States administration to act in response to the evidence of chemical weapons use.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius personally called Kerry on Monday and informed him that all the information at France's disposal would be transmitted to Washington, ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot told reporters.

"That has since been done by the relative services as well as by diplomatic channels," he added.

US officials have appeared to be playing down the significance of France's assertion that it is now "certain" that the Syrian regime had used the deadly nerve agent sarin in at least one attack.

Kerry said Wednesday he wanted to see "information that shows us the chain of custody of that evidence, so we know precisely where it came from."

France has described the evidence of sarin use as a development that obliges the international community to act but Washington has been reluctant to confirm a perceived violation of its own "red line" against the Syrian regime's use or movement of chemical weapons.

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SYRIA

French group to open two hotels in Damascus

France's Louvre Hotels Group has signed an agreement to open two hotels under its own name in Damascus, the first with a western hotel operator since Syria's brutal civil war began in 2011.

French group to open two hotels in Damascus
Louvre owns the Golden Tulip five-star brand. Photo: Louvre Hotels Group
The confirmation of the two hotels opening, after recent media reports, came a day after the UN announced an internal investigation into the bombing of hospitals in Syria, and as at least six civilians were killed by the Syrian regime and Russian fire in northwestern Idlib province in the past days, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
The region of around three million people, many of them displaced by fighting in other areas, is one of the last holdouts of opposition fighting against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
   
The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance led by Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate controls most of Idlib as well as parts of neighbouring Aleppo and Latakia provinces.
   
The hotels “will open soon under the brand name of Louvres Hotels Group,” the company, which is owned by China's Jin
Jiang, said in a statement.
 
Louvre Hotels Group said the deal was signed between Syria's Nazha Investment Group and “a partner with whom Louvre Hotels cooperates in the Middle East”.
   
The exact number of people killed in Syria's war is unknown but hundreds of thousands have died.
   
Several dozen medical facilities with links to the UN have been damaged or destroyed by bombs this year. Russian has denied deliberately targeting civilian installations.
   
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday said an internal inquiry would look into the bombing of hospitals in Syria which had previously flagged their coordinates to avoid air strikes.
   
“The deal is strictly in line with international law and all international directives regarding Syria,” the French company statement said.
   
According to the website, The Syria Report, it is the first agreement with a western hotel operator since 2011, when the devastating conflict began. Louvre Hotels Group was taken over by China's Jin Jiang in 2015 and it operates more than 1,500 hotels in 54 countries.
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