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France set to 'punish' Assad without UK help

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France set to 'punish' Assad without UK help
Photo: Camus/AFP
11:19 CEST+02:00
French President François Hollande on Friday warned that a strike on Syria could happen soon, despite his ally, UK Prime Minister David Cameron ruling out British involvement in any military intervention.

In an exclusive interview with left-leaning Le Monde, Hollande repeated his desire to “punish” the Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad for a chemical attack in Damascus, and said that Britain's surprise rejection of armed intervention would not affect his government's stand.

"France wants firm and proportionate action against the Damasacus regime," he said. 

"The chemical massacre at Damascus cannot and must not remain unpunished. Otherwise, we take the risk of an escalation that would normalise the use of these weapons, and threaten other countries."

"I'm not in favour of an international intervention that aims to 'liberate' Syria, or to overthrow the dictator, but I do think we must put an end to a regime that has gone beyond redemption with what it has done to its population," he added.

Hollande said the British parliament's rebuff would not influence the course of action Paris would take.

"Each country is free to choose whether to take part in such an operation or not. That holds true for Britain and France," he said.

The French leader, who had vowed to "punish" President Bashar al-Assad's regime for an alleged chemical weapons strike on August 21st, said "there was a body of indicators pointing to the responsibility of the Damascus regime."

Hollande however ruled out strikes while the UN inspectors were in Syria.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has said they were expected to leave Syria by Saturday morning.

The United States, which had warned that Assad would be crossing a "red line" if chemical weapons were used, said it was still seeking an "interventional coalition" for possible strikes on Syria while reserving the right to act alone.

The French parliament is due to meet on Wednesday for an emergency Syria session.

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