France Finds Evidence Of 'Massive' Chemical Attack

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.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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.

(SOUNDBITE OF TALK SHOW)

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.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.