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SYRIA

France set to ‘punish’ Assad without UK help

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.

France set to 'punish' Assad without UK help
Photo: Camus/AFP

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.

More to follow

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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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