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French Right Distances Itself from Hollande over Syria

French Right Distances Itself from Hollande over Syria W460

The French right distanced itself from President Francois Hollande over military action in Syria on Saturday and warned him not to be hasty in siding with any U.S.-led response.

Former prime minister Francois Fillon and the president of the main right-wing party, the UMP, Jean-Francois Cope have both warned of the dangers of military action against Damascus in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack which the U.S. says left 1,429 people dead.

Paris, like Washington, holds the regime of Bashar Assad fully responsible for the August 21 atrocity.

Three days after appearing to back Hollande, claiming he was "right on form and substance", Cope now appears to have distanced himself from the president, as an opinion poll showed 64 percent of French people were opposed to military action.

Insisting that France retained its ability to make its own military decision, Cope said on Saturday that political leaders should wait for the conclusions of U.N. weapons inspectors. "The Iraq syndrome is present in all our minds," he said.

The invasion of Iraq by a U.S.-led coalition in 2003 was opposed by France because weapons of mass destruction were never found.

Cope, however, said that if responsibility for the attack was determined, "the gassing of innocents, women and children could not be left unpunished".

However, he claimed he did not have the "necessary information" to make a final decision as Hollande had "obstinately" refused to meet opposition leaders,

Fillon appeared more hostile to military action.

He said France should act "responsibly" and not follow anyone into an attack "even if they are our friends and allies, the Americans".

"The region is a powder-keg," he added.

According to the former prime minister "the only solution" to the Syrian civil war was through negotiation.


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