Saturday, March 8, 2014
By ELAINE GANLEY/The Associated Press
(Continued from page 1)
This citizen journalism image provided by Edlib News Network, ENN, shows anti-Syrian regime protesters carrying a banner during a demonstration in Kafr Nabil town, in Idlib province, northern Syria, on Friday, Aug. 30, 2013.
Hollande reiterated that any action is aimed at punishing the regime of Bashar Assad, not toppling him.
"I won't talk of war but of a sanction for a monstrous violation of the human person. It will have a dissuasive value," he said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has warned that military strikes would lead to long-term destabilization of Syria and the region. He has spoken against any use of force without U.N. Security Council approval, which he said would be a "crude violation of international law." Russia has remained a strong ally of Syria throughout the civil war, which has left more than 100,000 people dead.
In Damascus, three U.N. vehicles headed out for more on-site visits on Friday, after an early morning delay.
The U.N. said Thursday that the inspectors would wrap up their investigation Friday and leave Syria for the Hague, Netherlands, the following day. Some of the experts will travel to laboratories in Europe to deliver the material they've collected this week during trips to the Damascus suburbs purportedly hit by toxic gas.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's foreign policy adviser expressed puzzlement Friday at why the U.N. team was leaving so soon.
"We don't quite understand why the entire team had to be going back to the Hague when there are many questions about a possible use of chemical weapons in other areas in Syria," said Yuri Ushakov.
The mandate of the U.N. team is to determine whether chemical agents were used in the attack — not who was responsible. But the U.N. has suggested that evidence collected by investigators — including biological samples and interviews — might give an indication of who was behind the attack.
Hollande said that a chemical attack is "an established fact ... and the question is to know who are the authors of this frightening act." But he reiterated what France has said for several days, that Paris has a "range of indices which point to the responsibility of the regime."