Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

U.S. and France Align on Strikes ; with Britain Sidelined, the 2 Allies Jointly Call for Military Action

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

U.S. and France Align on Strikes ; with Britain Sidelined, the 2 Allies Jointly Call for Military Action

Article excerpt

The two most vocal advocates of an international response to a chemical weapons attack in Syria have made an unusual joint appeal for military action.

The two most vocal advocates of an international response to a chemical weapons attack in Syria have teamed up, with Secretary of State John Kerry and his French counterpart making an unusual joint appeal for military action.

"France and the United States stand together," Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, said Saturday at a news conference with Mr. Kerry in Paris. He argued that a punishing military strike was needed to redraw the red line against the use of chemical weapons.

Mr. Kerry, for his part, reached back to President John F. Kennedy's meetings with President Charles de Gaulle and sought to touch a chord with wary Europeans over the need to stand up to the "slaughter" of civilians by delivering much of his presentation in fluent French.

France has displaced Britain as the United States' main military ally if force is to be used against the Syrian government.

But Mr. Kerry and Mr. Fabius, who each confront a skeptical public at home, need each other politically as well. France has been Exhibit A in the State Department's campaign to demonstrate that it has managed to mobilize some international support.

French officials, meanwhile, have made it clear that they do not want to go it alone against Syria.

The events that unfolded Saturday indicated that the next phase of the U.S. and French partnership on Syria would require more coordination.

In an effort to obtain broader backing for a military operation from European nations, France's president, Francois Hollande, said Friday that his government would not act militarily before U.N. inspectors presented their findings about the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus.

The move was intended to secure a measure of support from Germany, Italy and other European nations, which are concerned that action will be taken without the approval of the U.N. Security Council because of the threat of a Russian veto.

And it enabled Mr. Hollande to make the point that there would be some sort of U.N. process before the use of force.

After Mr. Hollande's remarks, the European Union issued a statement on Saturday at a meeting in Lithuania calling for a "clear and strong response," endorsing his decision and expressing hope that a "preliminary" version of the report by the U.N. inspectors would be released "as soon as possible."

The statement, which was read by Catherine Ashton, the European Union's chief foreign policy official, papered over some of the lingering divisions in the Union's ranks.

The statement urged the Security Council to "fulfill its responsibilities" but pointedly did not call for an attack or say that the Council's approval was required before a military strike could be carried out. …

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