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The French president has said a vote by UK MPs against involvement in military strikes on Syria has not changed France’s resolve to take firm action.

Francois Hollande said all options were being considered, and that a strike within days was not ruled out.

His comments came after US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said Washington would continue to seek a coalition for possible military action.

However, Germany said it would not participate in military action.

 

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung newspaper that “such participation has not been sought nor is it being considered”.

Russia welcomed the UK parliament’s vote, saying it reflected a growing public understanding of the dangers of an attack.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said there should be no rush to force action against Syria until UN chemical weapons inspectors have reported on their findings.

Washington accuses Damascus of using chemical weapons – which it denies.

The inspectors visited a hospital in a government-controlled area of Damascus.

The experts are due to finish their work later on Friday and give their preliminary findings to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday.

‘France is ready’

In an interview with Le Monde newspaper, Mr Hollande said the UK vote made no difference to his support for action against the Syrian government.

“Each country is sovereign to participate or not in an operation. That is valid for Britain as it is for France,” he said.

He said that if the UN Security Council was unable to act because two of its permanent members, Russia and China, were in opposition, a coalition would form including the Arab League and European countries

 

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“But there are few countries which can have the capacity of enforcing any sanction through the appropriate measures,” he added.

“France will be part of it. France is ready.”

Mr Hollande added that while all options for intervention were on the table, no decision would be taken without the conditions to justify it.

He ruled out strikes while the UN inspectors were in Syria. However, he did not rule out the possibility that military action could be taken before next Wednesday, when the French parliament is due to debate the issue.

British members of parliament rejected the principle of military action against Damascus in a 285-272 vote on Thursday

 

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On Friday UK Prime Minister David Cameron said he would continue to press for a “robust response” to the use of chemical weapons.

But the defeat of the government motion comes as a potential blow to the authority of Mr Cameron, who had already watered down his proposal in response to the opposition’s objections, correspondents say.

‘Beyond doubt’

In a statement on Thursday, the White House said President Barack Obama’s decision-making “will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States”.

It stressed that the president “believes that there are core interests at stake for the United States”.

And in an intelligence briefing to senior members of Congress on the case for launching military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s troops, State Secretary John Kerry said Washington could not be held to the foreign policy of others.

Eliot Engel, the top Democratic member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told reporters after the briefing that other Obama administration officials had said that it was “beyond a doubt that chemical weapons were used, and used intentionally by the Assad regime”.

 

Models for possible intervention
Iraq 1991: US-led global military coalition; explicit mandate from UN Security Council to evict Iraqi forces from KuwaitBalkans 1990s: US arms supplied to anti-Serb resistance in defiance of UN-mandated embargo; later US-led air campaign against Serb paramilitariesSomalia 1992-93: UN authorised international force for humanitarian reasons; US military involvement culminated in disaster and pulloutLibya 2011: France and UK sought UN authorisation for humanitarian operation; air offensive continued until fall of GaddafiWhat happens after US Tomahawks hit?Western military optionsShadow of Iraq loomsQ&A: Threatened strike on Syria

Mr Engel added that officials had cited evidence including “intercepted communications from high-level Syrian officials”.

One of the Syrian officials overheard seemed to suggest the chemical weapons attack was more devastating than was intended, officials were quoted as saying by the New York Times.

At least 355 people are reported to have died in a suspected chemical attack in the Ghouta area – on the outskirts of the capital, Damascus – on 21 August.

In Thursday’s statement, the White House also stressed that it would “continue to consult” with the UK over Syria, describing London as “one of our closest allies and friends”.

More than 100,000 people are estimated to have died since the conflict erupted in Syria in March 2011, and the conflict has produced at least 1.7 million refugees.

Forces which could be used against Syria:

 

• Four US destroyers – USS Gravely, USS Ramage, USS Barry and USS Mahan – are in the eastern Mediterranean, equipped with cruise missiles. The missiles can also be fired from submarines, but the US Navy does not reveal their locations

• Airbases at Incirlik and Izmir in Turkey, and in Jordan, could be used to carry out strikes

• Two aircraft carriers – USS Nimitz and USS Harry S Truman are in the wider region

• French aircraft carrierCharles de Gaulle is currently in Toulon in the western Mediterranean

• French Raffale and Mirage aircraft can also operate from Al-Dhahra airbase in the UAEia:

See on www.bbc.co.uk

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