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SYRIA

Majority of French oppose Syria intervention

France has already dispatched a warship and President Francois Hollande is talking tough about "punishing" Bashar al-Assad over a chemical weapons attack, but a poll on Thursday revealed the majority of French oppose military action by its armed forces.

Majority of French oppose Syria intervention
A French fighter jet. Photo: Alexander Klein/AFP

Survey results pubished on Thursday show the majority of French people do not support French military intervention in Syria.

On the same day France dispatched a ship towards Syria a survey conducted by IFOP for Le Figaro newspaper shows the French hold a mainly negative view towards a possible military intervention in Syria by the country's armed forces.

The poll revealed that 59% of the public are against French involvement. However the same survey found that 55% of the people questioned would, however, support UN military action against the Assad regime in response to a chemical weapons attack in Damascus last week that the West blames on the Syrian leader.

However, the French don’t have a history of being particularly pro-war. Only 55% were in favour of France’s involvement in Afghanistan and just 36% were for the military effort in Libya.

There was a more positive response towards operation “Serval” in Mali, for which 60% of the public showed their support, reports Le Figaro.

Earlier in the day the frigate Chevalier Paul left the port of Toulon in the south of France bound for Syria on Thursday, according to the French online news site Le Point.

The decision to dispatch the anti-aircraft vessel, comes just a day after it was announced that the French Parliament would hold an emergency session on Syria in response to the deadly chemical weapons attack, the West believes was carried out by Bashar al-Assad.

It is the latest move that suggests France is gearing up to intervene militarily in the war-torn country.

The anti-aircraft warship, believed to be the most modern in the French Navy fleet, could be used to protect allied bombers in the case the US, UK and France – the three countries pushing for military intervention – decide to launch air strikes against Assad.

Plans difficult to develop

French government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said on Thursday that Western plans for retaliatory action against Syria for an alleged chemical weapons attack are "difficult to develop".

"The international community must find a riposte that is adapted to the situation,"  said on France 2 television.

She said it was "necessary to obtain the adhesion of several allies and partners at the heart of the UN Security Council, which we are trying to do" but added that "states like Russia and China pose a certain number of problems."

The aim of military action "will not simply be to punish the Syrian regime and prevent it from carrying out a new attack of this type … but also to seek a way out of this crisis."

"It's extremely important for the international community if it intervenes to do so in a manner that the country can recover."

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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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