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French government 'outraged' over Syrian official’s visit to Paris

Eric Feferberg, AFP | People walk in front of the Russian Orthodox Sainte-Trinite Cathedral during the inauguration of the new Russian Orthodox spiritual and cultural centre on October 19, 2016 in Paris

A top Syrian official attended a conference in Paris Tuesday on the invitation of French lawmakers, angering the government days after he was banned from a similar meeting in Brussels.


French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault tweeted that he was "outraged" by lawmakers from the conservative Republicans party's invitation to Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Ayman Soussan to a meeting on the conflict at the Russian cultural centre in Paris.

European Parliament head Antonio Tajani had banned Soussan from a Brussels conference planned for April 10 in response to the suspected chemical attack on a Syrian rebel-held town that killed at least 87 people last week.

Ayrault expressed his anger at an invitation to Paris being extended to Soussan "after the despicable chemical attack", which the US and Western allies have blamed on the Syrian regime.

Republicans lawmaker Thierry Mariani told AFP that the event -- named "Syria, A Tragedy That Cannot Go On", had been organised before the attack, in collaboration with two Socialist lawmakers.

"The conference had been planned for two months (to be held) in a room at the assembly," Mariani told AFP.

"But after the cancellation last week of a meeting in Brussels with the deputy minister, I felt like there was a risk of the conference being cancelled."

The event was subsequently moved to the Russian cultural centre, he said.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson flew into Moscow on Tuesday to confront the Kremlin over its support for President Bashar al-Assad as the US questioned if Russia was complicit in the alleged chemical attack.

The attack in the town of Khan Sheikhun prompted US President Donald Trump to order cruise missile strikes on a Syrian air base.

Russia reacted with fury to the US strikes and continues to cast doubt on the regime's involvement in the Khan Sheikhun attack.


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