France poised to launch action against Syria

France said on Wednesday it would remain poised to launch military action against Syria over its use of chemical weapons, despite ongoing attempts to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

The warning came after a meeting between President Francois Hollande, his foreign and defence ministers and senior military figures.

"France will remain, in permanent contact with its partners, mobilised to punish the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime and to deter them from using them again," a statement from Hollande's office read.

Hollande said France was nevertheless determined to give negotiations aimed at placing Syria's chemical weapons under international control a chance to succeed.

"The president of the republic underlined France's determination to explore every avenue at the UN Security Council to allow, as quickly as possible, effective and verifiable control of the chemical weapons present in Syria," the statement said.

France is pushing for a binding Security Council resolution requiring Syria to swiftly implement its pledge to give up its chemical weapons or face punitive action.

Russia has offered to oversee the process and help destroy the arsenal, but is strongly opposed to presenting Syria, its closest ally in the Middle East, with an ultimatum.

Moscow has vetoed every Security Council resolution on Syria since the start of the country's civil war more than two years ago.

Readiness to destroy
Meanwhile, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso on Wednesday said "a strong response" was needed to the use of chemical weapons and urged Damascus "without delay" to show readiness to destroy them.

Delivering his annual state of the union speech before the European Parliament, Barroso said "the use of chemical weapons is a horrendous act that deserves a clear condemnation and a strong answer".

"The international community, with the United Nations at its centre, carries a collective responsibility to sanction these acts and to put an end to this conflict," he told the 751-member house.

"The proposal to put Syria's chemical weapons beyond use is potentially a positive development," he added.

"The Syrian regime must now demonstrate that it will implement this without any delay."

He recalled too that the 28-member bloc had been the world's leading aid donor since the two-and-a-half year conflict began, delivering almost €1.5-billion in aid, of which 850 million were directly from the European Union budget. – AFP

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