Macron says France has 'proof' of Syrian chemical attack
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday that he had "proof" that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons in Douma and would announce his response "in due course".
"We have proof that last week, now 10 days ago, that chemical weapons were used, at least with chlorine, and that they were used by the regime of (President) Bashar al-Assad," Macron said, without giving details on the evidence or how it was acquired.
The alleged chemical attack in rebel-held Douma near Damascus on 7 April, which killed dozens of people, sparked international outrage and warnings of possible military action.
France is expected to join the United States and Britain in carrying out airstrikes or some other form of attack in response to the use of the weapons, but it remains unclear when that might happen or even if it definitely will.
"Our teams have been working on this all week and we will need to take decisions in due course, when we judge it most useful and effective," Macron told broadcaster TF1 when asked whether a red line had been crossed.
US President Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday morning: "Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!"
Macron said France wanted to remove the Syrian regime's chemical weapons capabilities. When asked whether those would be the targets of strikes he said: "When we decide it, and once we have verified all the information."
The French army is preparing itself for a response as it waits for the political green light, military sources told Reuters.
Strikes would come from warplanes rather than its naval frigate off the Lebanese coast, the sources added, and they would likely take off from France rather than its Middle East bases.
Macron, who had made the use of chemical weapons in Syria a "red line", said one of his aims in Syria was to "remove the regime's chemical attack capabilities".
But he repeated that he wanted to also avoid "an escalation".
"France will in no way allow an escalation or anything that would harm regional stability, but we cannot allow regimes that believe they can act with impunity to violate international law in the worst possible way."