“There are few countries that have the capacity to act,” Hollande said in an interview with Le Monde newspaper published today. “France is among them and is ready to do so.”
The remarks puts France in the position of being the key ally for U.S. President Barack Obama in any attack on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, reversing the roles the two countries played a decade ago when President George W. Bush led the invasion of Iraq.
Asked about the British parliament’s vote against strikes in Syria, Hollande said every country can make decisions on the matter independently.
“Every country is sovereign in deciding whether or not to participate in an operation,” Hollande said, according to Le Monde. “That’s true for the U.K. as it is for France. I’ll be having a serious talk today with Barack Obama.”
In London last night, Cameron told lawmakers that the U.K. will play no part in any attack on Assad after an already watered-down motion seeking authorization for possible strikes was defeated by 285 votes to 272. Coalition rebels joined the opposition to defeat the proposal.
“The British Parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not wish to see British military action,” Cameron said. “I get that and the government will act accordingly.”
The German government ruled out military engagement today for the first time. At the same time, Germany hopes for a unanimous UN Security Council response to the alleged Syria gas attack, Steffen Seibert, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief spokesman, told reporters in Berlin.
As French president, Hollande is head of the armed forces and isn’t required to consult lawmakers before taking military action. France’s National Assembly will hold a debate on the matter Sept. 4.
Earlier this year, France intervened in Mali to thwart an advance by Islamist militants and ethnic Touareg rebels.
While Hollande conceded that it’s hard to prove for certain who ordered the chemical attack in Syria , Assad’s regime needs to be punished.
“The question is no longer whether chemical weapons were used on Aug. 21 in the Damascus suburbs -- that’s an established fact,” Hollande said. “The question is to know who is behind this ghastly act.”
“I believe that a stop must be placed on a regime” that is acting against its own people, he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Deen in Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Fraher at email@example.com