France Finds Evidence Of 'Massive' Chemical Attack

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Stating the case for military action against the Syrian government, French officials today accused the Assad regime of a massive chemical weapons attack on August 21. The French parliament is due to debate the issue later this week but the Paris government does not need approval from the lawmakers to take part in a punitive attack in Syria.


The French government presented its intelligence today on chemical weapons use in Syria. France says evidence that the Assad regime carried out the August 21st attack outside Damascus is overwhelming. Here's NPR's Eleanor Beardsley from Paris.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault gathered French lawmakers together this evening to present French military and civilian intelligence findings on the Syrian chemical attack. Military analyst Pierre Servant(ph), speaking on television, describes the findings.

PIERRE SERVANT: (Foreign language spoken)

BEARDSLEY: The Syrian regime's vast chemical weapons program has been under observation by French intelligence for years, says Servant, using satellites, telephone bugs, secret agents and every other form of modern spyware. And for them, he says, there is no shadow of a doubt the attack came from the regime. The rebels simply don't have such chemical weapons or the vectors to launch them. After presenting that evidence to lawmakers, much of it declassified for his presentation, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault spoke on television.

PRIME MINISTER JEAN-MARC AYRAULT: (Through translator) France is determined to punish Assad's use of chemical weapons. The stakes are high. We must ensure that Assad does not use them against his people again and send a message to any other dictator who would think of using chemical weapons.

BEARDSLEY: The French president has wide powers and does not have to seek parliamentary approval for military action unless it goes on longer than four months. But President Obama's about-face on Saturday has now plunged France into debate and forced President Francois Hollande to seek further legitimacy.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken)

BEARDSLEY: Commentators for and against an attack on Syria, and for and against parliament's approval for it, duked it out on this talk show. Two-thirds of the French public is against an attack. The detailed French intelligence against Assad is now available to the public on the Elysee Palace's website. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.

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