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SYRIA

West to decide Syria action this week: France

French President François Hollande said on Monday he would stand by his American counterpart Barack Obama if the US opted for military intervention in Syria. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the West would make such a decision "in the coming days."

West to decide Syria action this week: France
France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius calls for use of force if it is confirmed chemical weapons were used to massacre Syrians. File photo: Cyclotron/Wikimedia Commons

The West will decide in the coming days on a response to the Syria crisis after allegations the Damascus regime used chemical weapons in a deadly attack last week, France's foreign minister and president said on Monday.

Asked on French radio about a possible reaction with "force", Laurent Fabius said a decision had not yet been taken, adding: "We have to assess the reactions… and that will be decided upon in the coming days."

Syria's opposition says more than 1,300 people died when toxic gases were unleashed last Wednesday as regime forces bombarded rebel zones east and southwest of Damascus.

President François Hollande has also suggested France is not afraid to intervene in the war-torn country telling a French newspaper on Monday that he has told US President Barack Obama that he will be by his side if the West does decide to launch military action in Syria.

“There are several options on the table, from the strengthening of international sanctions to air strikes or the arming of rebels. It is still too early to say what will happen, everything will be decided this week," Hollande told Le Parisien.

“The UN experts will investigate. We will also give a little more time to the diplomatic process. But not too much. We cannot stand idly by over the use of chemical weapons," vowed the president.

France has seemingly made its mind up that Bashar al-Assad's forces were behind the chemical attack but the Syrian regime has angrily denied the claims, and has warned the United States of "failure" if it decides to attack the war-torn country.

Washington and its Western allies have pointed the finger of blame at Bashar al-Assad's regime, with Hollande saying "everything was consistent" with the conclusion that Damascus was behind the alleged attack.

"The options are open. The only option that I do not envisage is to do nothing," Fabius told Europe 1 radio.

He said the existence of a "chemical massacre" had been established and that Assad was responsible.

"A reaction is needed, that's where we are now… There is a duty to react," he added.

Recent comments by the White House and a US diplomatic offensive have fuelled speculation that the United States may be getting ready to order limited military action in Syria.

On Monday, UN experts were due to inspect the site of the alleged attack after being given the green light by the Syrian regime.

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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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