France calls for 'force' if chemical arms confirmed in Syria

France calls for 'force' if chemical arms confirmed in Syria

PARIS - Reuters
France calls for force if chemical arms confirmed in Syria

France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius delivers his address at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations secretariat in Jakarta on August 2, 2013. AFP PHOTO / ROMEO GACAD

France said on Thursday that the international community would need to respond with force if allegations that the Syrian government was responsible for a chemical attack on civilians proved true.

"There would have to be reaction with force in Syria from the international community, but there is no question of sending troops on the ground," Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told French television network BFM.

If the U.N. Security Council could not make a decision, one would have to be taken "in other ways," he said, without elaborating.

Opposition activists accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces of gassing hundreds, including women and children, in Wednesday's attack.

What would be the world's most lethal chemical weapons attack since the 1980s led to an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council in New York.

The council did not explicitly demand a U.N. investigation of the incident, although it said "clarity" was needed and welcomed U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon's calls for a prompt investigation by a U.N. inspection team already in Syria.

The council's statement was watered down to accommodate objections from Russia and China, diplomats said. Moscow and Beijing have vetoed previous Western efforts to impose U.N. penalties on Assad.

Fabius, who had a working dinner with his British counterpart William Hague in Paris on Wednesday night to discuss Syria, said the alleged attack had come almost exactly a year after U.S. President Barack Obama warned that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a red line.
The attack highlighted the sense of impunity within Assad's government, he said.

Fabius said that if Assad refused to let the U.N. inspection team investigate the site, he would have been caught with "his hand in the till."

Urgent meeting

Meanwhile, France, Britain and the United States have requested an urgent UN Security Council meeting over reports of a chemical weapons attack in Syria that left hundreds dead, diplomats said yesterday, Agence France-Presse has reported.

Security Council members Luxembourg and South Korea also asked for the meeting, which was expected to be held in the afternoon in the form of closed-door consultations, a diplomat said.

The United States on Aug. 21 demanded "immediate access" for United Nations inspectors to the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack by government forces on civilians in Syria.