France’s parliament, the National Assembly, has been debating whether to take military action against Syria.
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault opened with a speech saying no response to the chemical attack risked sending the wrong message to Iran and North Korea over their nuclear programmes.
He also said that any response must be limited, proportional and collective.
“If we don’t put an immediate stop to such acts from the regime there will be no political solution, because why would the Syrian dictator need to negotiate as long as he believes he can repeat what he’s doing, liquidate the opposition, by means which spread terror and death,” Ayrault said.
But the centre-right UMP opposition leader Christian Jacob pointed out that Ayrault was against similar intervention when France took part in enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya two years ago.
“It’s the United Nations and only the United Nations which can tell us how and by whom this gas was used. Everything in Syria as in Iraq ten years ago is converging so that France can make the voice of international legitimacy be heard. Nothing justifies such a radical change of direction in our diplomatic position or military stance,” said Jacob.
Parliament for now appears split. Although no vote is scheduled following the debate, the government says it will only act as part of a international collective.