PARIS — French President Francois Hollande said Friday he remained committed to a firm response on Syria despite Britain’s surprise rejection of armed intervention.
“France wants firm and proportionate action against the Damascus regime,” he said in an interview with Le Monde daily to be published Saturday.
Hollande said all options were on the table and did not rule out military strikes within days, even prior to an emergency session of parliament on Wednesday to debate the issue.
The French leader said the British parliament’s rebuff would not influence the course of action Paris would take.
“Each country is free to choose whether to take part in such an operation or not. That holds true for Britain and France,” he said.
Hollande, who had vowed to “punish” President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for an alleged chemical weapons attack on August 21, said “there was a body of indicators pointing to the responsibility of the Damascus regime.”
“The chemical massacre of Damascus cannot remain unpunished,” he said. “I will today have a meaningful exchange with (US President) Barack Obama.”
“I am not in favor of an international intervention aimed at ‘liberating’ Syria or to topple a dictator,” he said, adding that the regime needed to be stopped from committing atrocities on its people.
He ruled out strikes while the UN inspectors were in Syria investigating the alleged attack. UN chief Ban Ki-moon has said they were expected to leave Syria by Saturday morning.
Hollande said in the event strikes take place before parliament meets Wednesday, he would brief MPs on developments during that session.
The United States, which had warned that Assad would be crossing a “red line” if chemical weapons were used.