France: 'proportionate response' to Syria's chemical weapons on the table
on 26/08/2013 09:15:41
Laurent Fabius told Europe 1 radio: "It will be negotiated in coming days."
Mr Fabius acknowledged that the lack of a UN blessing over action was problematic, but added: "All the options are open. The only option that I can't imagine would be to do nothing."
Meanwhile, members of a UN team that is supposed to investigate the alleged chemical attack have left their hotel in Damascus.
Members wearing body armour were seen leaving in seven SUVs. It is not clear if the team is headed to the suburb where the alleged attack occurred.
Anti-government activists and Doctors Without Borders say that more than 300 people were killed in an artillery barrage by regime forces on Wednesday that included the use of toxic gas.
Syrian president Bashar Assad has said his troops did not use chemical weapons in the attack.
Mr Assad told Russia's Izvestia daily that the accusations that his troops were responsible were "politically motivated".
He said in an interview that attacking such an area with chemical weapons would not make sense for the government as there was no clear frontline between regime and rebel forces.
Syria said on Sunday that a UN team could investigate the site, but a senior White House official dismissed the deal as "too late to be credible".
Mr Assad was quoted as saying: ''This is nonsense. First they level the accusations, and only then they start collecting evidence.''
He added: "How can the government use chemical weapons, or any other weapons of mass destruction, in an area where its troops are situated?
"This is not logical. That's why these accusations are politically motivated, and a recent string of victories of the government forces is the reason for it."
With France, Britain, Israel and some US congressmen urging swift military action against the Assad regime if the use of chemical agents is confirmed, the UN team's conclusions could have a dramatic impact on the trajectory of the country's civil war.
Russia, which has been a staunch ally of Syria, said last week that the accusations against Assad could be a bid to get the Security Council to stand by the opposition, and to undermine efforts to resolve the conflict by convening a peace conference in Geneva.