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France says Syria chemical weapons allegations must be probed

Syria's regime has pounded areas of rebel-held Idlib in an ongoing assault [AFP]

Date of publication: 22 May, 2019

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France's foreign ministry has said that fresh allegations that Syria's regime is using chemical weapons must be looked into.
Fresh allegations that Syria's regime is using chemical weapons must be investigated, France's foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

The statement from Paris followed claims from the Washington on Tuesday that it saw signs that the Assad regime may have used chemical weapons in recent airstrikes.

"We have noted with a degree of alarm these allegations, which need to be looked into," the foreign ministry said in an online press briefing.

"We have full confidence in the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons," it added.

In the aftermath of airstrikes on rebel-held Idlib over the weekend, the US State Department reiterated an earlier warning issued by US President Donald Trump over the use of chemical weapons.

"The United States reiterates its warning, first issued by President (Donald) Trump in September 2018, that an attack against the Idlib de-escalation zone would be a reckless escalation that threatens to destabilise the region," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

International inspectors say that Assad's forces have carried out a series of chemical attacks in the course of the brutal civil war, which has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since 2011. 

A sarin gas attack in April 2017 in the town of Khan Sheikhun killed 83 people, according to the United Nations, leading Trump to order a strike by 59 cruise missiles on a Syrian air base. 

His action was a reversal from his predecessor Barack Obama, who had declared chemical weapons to be a red line but controversially chose not to respond militarily and instead worked with Russia on a plan that aimed to remove the regime's chemical stockpile.

Trump, however, is also skeptical of a commitment in Syria and last year ordered the withdrawal of all 2,000 US troops, although aides later said a small number would stay.

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