France says to decide on Syria strikes in coming days

France says it can prove the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians last weekend.

The French president unveiled that Paris had "proof that chemical weapons were used last week, at least chlorine, and that they were used by the regime of Bashar al-Assad". He didn't elaborate on exactly what that proof is.

The US is amassing the largest air and naval strike force since the Iraq war in 2003 to be ready for attacks on Syria if the president gives the go-ahead.

The French leader, 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".

It "could be very soon or not so soon at all", tweeted the president, who has cancelled a planned trip to allow him to stay in the United States with his defence secretary, and has been canvassing support for strikes from the leaders of France and the UK.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov urged against "any steps which could lead to an escalation of tensions".

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The worldwide Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is due to send monitors to Douma, but it is how much evidence of any chemical attack might remain. Also on Thursday, the UN Security Council was to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis, the BBC reported.

"Of course, the chemical attack is what pushed us to agree" to a withdrawal from Douma, said high-ranking Jaish al-Islam member Yasser Dalwan.

A team from the world's chemical arms watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), was expected to arrive in Syria on Thursday and Friday begin a fact-finding mission in Douma. The Syrian government has denied the allegations and called the reports fake news that the West uses to justify attacking the country.

It remains hard to place an exact figure on the number of people killed and wounded Saturday in the rebel-held town of Douma, on the outskirts of Damascus.

The Russian military said Thursday that the Syrian government is now in full control of the town, once held by rebels opposing Syrian President Bashar Assad.

  • Megan Austin