European foreign ministers on Saturday called the alleged chemical weapons attack outside Damascus a war crime deserving of a “strong answer.” But they said any military action to retaliate for the attack must wait until after the results are known of a United Nations investigation into what took place.
U.N. investigators spent four days at the site late last month, and the samples they took there are now being processed at laboratories in Europe.
The foreign ministers said they believe that only the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad had the capacity to unleash such a large amount of toxic chemicals, but there was little practical impact to their statement. Europeans are overwhelmingly opposed to military involvement in the Syrian civil war, public opinion surveys show. While France’s president, Francois Hollande, has pledged to join any action led by the United States, German officials, with national elections just two weeks away, have declined to embrace the idea. A national poll by German Public Television showed 58 percent of Germans oppose involvement in military action, while only a third support it.
Meanwhile, a new poll for the French newspaper Le Figaro showed 64 percent of French citizens opposed.
The French National Assembly is expected to authorize French participation in any military action in Syria this week, but Hollande has said he would honor European wishes and wait for the results of the United Nations tests.