Syria crisis: Assad interview has increased my determination, says France President François Hollande
French President infuriated by 'threats' from Syrian leader - but he may follow Obama's example and wait for a vote
Tuesday 03 September 2013
The Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, seemed calm and was surrounded by only light security when he gave an interview to a French journalist in Damascus earlier this week.
“By showing himself without any obvious signs of protection, the Syrian President wanted to demonstrate that he is not hiding in a bunker,” wrote the interviewer, George Malbrunot of Le Figaro today.
The interview – the first given by Mr Assad to a Western journalist since the gas attack on a rebel-held area of eastern Damascus on 21 August – took place on Monday in a house on a pine-clad hill in Damascus. “Security around the house was minimal. I was not searched,” Malbrunot wrote. “Bashar al-Assad came to greet me in the entry porch. We went into a large office, decorated with paintings. Mr Assad remained calm throughout… He showed no obvious signs of anxiety but he seemed very troubled by his stand-off with Barack Obama.”
In extracts of the interview released later that day, President Assad warned France of “negative repercussions on its interests” if it joined the US in an air attack on Syria. He also warned that the Middle East was a “powder-barrel” which could “explode” into a “regional war” if the air-raids went ahead.
The interview, published over a full page in Le Figaro today, produced an angry reaction from President François Hollande. He accused President Assad of telling “lies” and of threatening “the people of France”.
“Reading the interview only increased my determination,” Mr Hollande said.
“The most serious threat would be to do nothing, to let him continue to use chemical weapons.”
Members of the French National Assembly will debate the proposed air attack on Syria this afternoon but will not be allowed to vote. President Hollande is, however, thought to be ready to back down and put the issue to a parliamentary vote in the next few days – possibly after the Congressional vote in Washington next week.
Mr Hollande has the power to order short military action without parliamentary approval. However, Mr Hollande now accepts that the “No” vote in the House of Commons last week and President Obama’s decision to consult Congress have left him in an impossible position. There is no question of France acting alone if Congress rejects air strikes.
Opposition politicians point out that this means, in effect, that the US Congress will decide whether French forces should go into action but that the French parliament will not.
The Elysée Palace was said to be looking for a way out of this political and constitutional maze. Le Monde reported the government was likely to table a confidence motion in policy on Syria in the next few days.
Two in three French voters oppose military action by France, according to opinion polls. Most of Mr Hollande’s Socialists are reluctantly prepared to go along. His Green allies are against. The centre-right opposition is divided. The far right and hard left are virulently opposed.
- 1 Al Pacino on suffering from depression: 'It can last and it's terrifying'
- 2 Half of young women unable to ‘locate vagina’ and 65% find it difficult to say the word
- 3 Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb
- 4 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 5 Mexican woman becomes world’s 'oldest person' at 127
Perez Hilton apologises for publishing Jennifer Lawrence naked photo leak
Jennifer Lawrence 'nude photo hacker' claims there are hundreds more celebrity images to come
Victoria Justice on naked photo leak: 'Let me nip this in the bud right now – pun intended'
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb
Ariana Grande nude photos leak: Pictures are completely fake, say singer's representatives
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Ashya King: Parents of five-year-old boy refused permission to visit him in hospital and denied bail at Spanish court
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
Ashya King: 'Cruel NHS has not given us the treatment we need', says father of five-year-old with brain tumour who fled to Spain
£26000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: SAP Assessor Job T...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor (Employee Rela...
£600 - £800 per day: Harrington Starr: Derivatives Risk Commodities Business A...
£600 - £800 per day: Harrington Starr: Power & Gas Business Analyst/Subject Ma...