France won’t attack Syria if U.S. doesn’t, prime minister tells his Senate


McClatchy Foreign Staff

French leaders warned Wednesday that failing to respond to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government would send a dangerous signal to the dictators of the world.

But French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault also said that his country would not launch a retaliatory strike on Syria if the United States decides not to do so.

“France will not act without U.S. support,” he told his country’s Senate as France’s Parliament began to debate whether the country should take military action to punish the government of President Bashar Assad for a chemical weapons attack that the U.S. and France claim his forces launched on Damascus suburbs Aug. 21.

“The question is, shall we take action, or resign?” Ayrault asked. “Can we allow ourselves to just condemn his actions?”

The warning came as the U.S. Congress undertook its second day of hearings leading up to a likely vote next week on whether to authorize a U.S. attack on Syria and six days after the British Parliament rejected British participation in any military action.

Just hours before the French discussion of a response began, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who’s consistently rejected the notion that Assad’s government used chemical weapons, seemed to open the door for possible Russian participation in a strike, telling a television interviewer that “if it is proven the government was behind the attacks, there will be a reaction.”

But he added that such proof would have to come from the United Nations inspection team that visited the site of the alleged attack, whose samples collected there and from victims in the hospital are being studied in laboratories around Europe, including one in Germany. The samples are expected to be analyzed by next week.

The analysis, however, will determine only whether chemical weapons were used and, if so, which kind. Determining who was behind the attacks then would fall to the United Nations Security Council.

Putin said that if such proof were provided, the Security Council would have to decide to act before any action would be legitimate.

“But once we have a decision from the United Nations, we could respond by any means necessary,” he said.

Putin, whose government has been – with Iran – the most aggressive defender of Assad, said he expected similar open-mindedness from U.S. officials.

“My question is what will be the U.S. reaction if the evidence shows that the rebels were behind the use of chemical weapons?” he asked. “Will the U.S. stop providing the rebellion with weapons in that case?”

While the Obama administration has promised to provide weapons to the rebels, it’s unclear whether it’s done so.

In France, lawmakers returned from vacation early to discuss the Syrian crisis.

Ayrault’s arguments to the French Senate tracked those that Secretary of State John Kerry had made Tuesday to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“What credibility would our international commitments against nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, stand for?” Ayrault said. “What message would this send to other regimes, and I am thinking, like you, of Iran and North Korea? The message would be clear: ‘You can continue.’ ”

French President Francois Hollande warned that a lack of action would “encourage the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and leave Syria and the region to fall into chaos."

The leader of the primary opposition party in the French Senate warned, however, that any action without a United Nations mandate carried the risk of isolating France. Christian Jacob, the head of the center-right Union for Popular Movement, the party of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, warned of “similarities with Iraq” in the run-up to any Syrian attack, saying there was no U.N. consensus and that the intelligence on which the U.S. and France have made their case is less than definitive.

“Where are our allies?” he asked. “Where is the United Nations Security Council resolution?”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled the first name of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Email: Twitter: @mattschodcnews

Read more World Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  • Judge won't free Russian accused of hacking in US

    A federal judge in the U.S. territory of Guam has denied a motion to release a Russian man accused of hacking computers inside hundreds of U.S. businesses.

This undated image posted by the Raqqa Media Center, a Syrian opposition group, on June 30, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) during a parade in Raqqa, Syria. (AP Photo/Raqqa Media Center)

    Islamic State’s brutal videos send message to friend and foe alike

    The Islamic State, the radical Islamist group that now controls large swaths of eastern Syria and northern and central Iraq, posted another slickly produced video online this week that warns its religious and political rivals that they face brutal torture and execution if captured.

  • US, UN announce deal on Gaza cease-fire

    Israel and Hamas have agreed to a humanitarian cease-fire to start Friday morning for 72 hours, the United States and United Nations announced Thursday.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category