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France 'ready to punish' Syria over gas attack

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France 'ready to punish' Syria over gas attack
French President Francois Hollande 'ready to punish Syria' Photo: AFP
17:23 CEST+02:00
French President François Hollande vowed on Tuesday that France was "ready to punish" those responsible for the recent chemical weapons attack in Syria, as the UK and US administrations earlier appeared to prepare the way for military intervention as early as this week.

Addressing a conference of French ambassadors, in Paris, Hollande declared "France is ready to punish those who took the disgusting decision to gas innocent people in Syria."

Hollande further warned that the Syrian civil war posed "a threat to world peace."

Stressing a "responsibility to protect civilians," Hollande also said that "chemical massacre cannot remain without a response from France."

To that end, he declared: "I have decided to increase our military support to the Syrian National Coalition," the country's main opposition body

Hollande also announced he would be meeting with his defence chiefs on Wednesday, in order to devise a strategy.

Earlier in the day a source from within his administration had promised France would not "shirk its responsibilities" in Syria.

The source said the "massive use" of chemical weapons is "unacceptable", adding that there was no doubt that President Bashar al-Assad's regime had used them in a deadly attack last week on a Damascus suburb.

Tensions have ratcheted up dramatically in recent days with Washington warning Damascus that it could face action over the alleged chemical weapons strikes in which hundreds are said to have been killed.

British forces on Tuesday were said to be making "contingency plans" for a possible strike in the coming days.

Earlier in the day US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel told BBC that though a final decision had not been made, a military response from the US was "ready to go."

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem retorted that Damascus would defend itself against any military strikes, adding that the regime had capabilities that would "surprise" the world.

The war-torn country'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.

But the Syrian regime has angrily denied being behind the alleged attack.

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