France says it now has proof the Syrian government has used nerve gas in its civil war, citing test results from samples in France’s possession.
The United States and other countries have repeatedly declared that the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime would demand a response.
French officials reportedly said the tests complied with international standards and proved that chemical weapons were used by the government of Syria.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters, “We need more information” about the alleged use of such weapons, and said they still needed to study the evidence.
Syrian rebels have been fighting against the government for over two years. Both sides have accused the other of atrocities.
There appears to be no end in sight to the fighting. Rebels captured parts of the country last year, but Assad has launched a major counter-offensive and brought in fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia which has turned the tide.
Millions have been driven from their homes, the violence has spread to Iraq and Lebanon, Israel has bombed Damascus and civil unrest is sweeping Turkey.
Assad is supported by Russia and Shi’ite Iran. The rebels are supported by the West, Turkey, and Sunni-ruled Arab countries.
Asked whether a “red-line” had been crossed by the Syrian government, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said “undoubtedly”. He said Paris was discussing with allies how to react.
“All options are on the table,” he said. “That means either we decide not to react or we decide to react including by armed actions targeting the place where the gas is stored.”
He cautioned, however, that the military option was not at the top of the list for now as efforts of reaching a peaceful solution continue.
French officials also said Paris hoped the results of the chemical tests would help U.N. investigators push their case to enter Syria. When the inspectors report, France intends to push for action at the U.N. Security Council, where three resolutions against Assad have already been vetoed by Russia and China.
“This is a way of adding pressure on Syria and those who support it,” the source said. “I can’t see how Russia could defend the use of chemical weapons.” (Image/Reuters)