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France to present Syria nerve gas ‘evidence’

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-09-02

The French government is due to present evidence to senior lawmakers it says proves that Bashar al-Assad’s Damascus regime used sarin gas in a deadly attack which has prompted calls for military intervention. Watch live at 7:30pm.

FRANCE 24 will broadcast French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault's announcement at 7:30pm Paris time (GMT+2).

Live on France 24

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault was due Monday to present evidence to senior lawmakers that the Syrian regime was responsible for a devastating chemical weapons attack that has prompted the US and western allies, including France, to consider military action.

The move comes as US President Barack Obama is lobbying Congress to back strikes, and follows the British parliament’s rejection of participating in joining any military action.

French government sources said evidence proving the regime's involvement in the attack would be provided to top lawmakers at a meeting with Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault at 5pm Paris time (GMT+2).

"It will be a set of evidence of different kinds that will allow the regime to be clearly identified as responsible for the August 21 chemical attack," a senior government source said.

"We are going to give the MPs everything we have – classified until now – to enable every one of them to take on board the reality of the unacceptable attack," Mr Ayrault said on Monday.

The French parliament is to hold a debate Wednesday on taking action on Syria, where more than 110,000 people have been killed in violence since an uprising against the regime began in March 2011.

Hollande has vowed to "punish" Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the alleged gas attack, which Washington claims killed more than 1,400 people.

The French president can order military action without parliamentary approval but some lawmakers have urged Hollande to put the issue to a vote.

France stands by US

Public opinion in both France and the US is deeply sceptical and in a surprise move Obama put off threatened missile strikes, saying he would first seek approval from Congress first.

That pushed back any US-led military action until at least September 9, when US lawmakers return from their summer break.

Obama and other top administration have been lobbying individual members of Congress, telling them Washington had proof the Damascus regime used sarin gas in the attack.

A Syrian security official told AFP that the country's army was still on alert, even if the threat of an imminent strike had receded.

"American aggression against Syria, if it happens, is a form of support to terrorism.... The army is on alert and will remain so until terrorism is completely eradicated," the official said.

Russia and China warn against strikes

Moscow, which alongside China has blocked any attempts to sanction the Syrian regime at the United Nations Security Council, said it remained totally unconvinced that the Assad regime carried out the attack, warning that Western military action would sink efforts to organise a peace conference in Geneva aimed at finding a political solution to the conflict.

"If the action announced by the US president – to the great regret of all of us – does in fact take place... it will put off the chances of (holding) this conference for a long time, if not forever," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

China meanwhile said it was "gravely concerned" about the prospect of "unilateral military actions" against Syria, saying no measures should be taken until it was clear who, if anyone, had used chemical weapons in the country.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-09-02

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