Syria regime has 1000-ton stockpile of sarin, mustard gas: French intelligence
Zee Media Bureau/Supriya Jha
Paris: Strengthening the case for punitive military action against Syria, now France has come up with an intelligence report laying blame on Assad regime for the deadly chemical attack adding that toxic chemical agents had been used several times during the civil war, with the government staging at least three chemical attacks since April this year.
A nine page French intelligence report unveiled by PM Jean-Marc Ayrault in the Parliament on Monday confirmed US` accusations against Bashar al-Assad`s regime. The report said that the August 21 attack in Syria`s Ghouta was a "massive and coordinated use of chemical agents against civilians," and that the rebels are not capable of conducting.
"No group belonging to the Syrian insurrection has, at this stage, the ability to store and use these agents, let alone in a proportion similar to that used on the night of August 21, 2013," the report stated.
The report which was based on the information compiled by French military and foreign intelligence services, pegs the death toll at 281 while the US had estimated 1429 deaths from the toxic gas.
The report further revealed that the Syrian government had stocked up "several hundred tonnes" of toxic chemical agents like mustard gas, sarin gas and a neurotoxic agent.
Even as the Obama administration is pushing hard to seek Congress nod on its Syria strike plan and British Parliament has already rejected any military strike plans by the UK, French politicians were demanding a vote on whether France should take part in military action against Syria.
But rejecting opposition`s calls, French PM Ayrault said that it was up to the "President of the republic to decide whether a vote (of parliament), which our constitution does not require, to take place on Wednesday".
"There will be a debate without a vote because in any case the final decision will be taken by the president when the coalition will be formed," he added.
The French Parliament is to hold a debate Wednesday on taking action on Syria.
On French forces mulling attack on Syria, Ayrault said, "It`s not for France to act alone. The president is continuing his work of persuasion to bring together a coalition without delay.
Under France`s constitution, Hollande, who is also head of the army, can order any military action but has to inform parliament within three days of its starting. Lawmakers` vote will be compulsory if the operation would last more than four months.
"France is determined to penalise the use of chemical weapons by Assad`s regime and to dissuade with a forceful and firm response," Ayrault said.
Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has reiterated his warning to Western nations saying that any attack would trigger a "regional war" in Middle East.
In an interview with French daily Le Figaro, Assad warned that if Western countries intervene militarily, “Everyone will lose control of the situation when the powder keg explodes. Chaos and extremism will spread. The risk of a regional war exists.”
“The Middle East is a powder keg, and the fire is approaching today," Assad said.