French president claims 'proof' Syria used chemical weapons in deadly attack

French president Emmanuel Macron said Thursday that the French “have the proof” that Syria used chemical weapons in eastern Syria and will respond at a “time of our choosing.”

At least 40 people, many of them children, died in the weekend attack in the town of Douma, near the capital Damascus. 

“We have the proof that chemical weapons — at least chlorine gas — were used by Assad’s regime,” Macron said, according to France24. He did not elaborate on the purported evidence.

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.

Asked in a TV interview whether France would join strikes on Syria, he said, “We will need to take decisions in due course, when we judge it most useful and effective.”

“France will not allow any escalation that could harm the stability of the region as a whole but we can’t let regimes that think they can do everything they want, including the worst things that violate international law, to act,” Macron said.

He said any strikes would go after Syria’s “chemical capabilities.”

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President Trump has sent mixed messages on the U.S. response, warning Russia in a tweet Wednesday to “get ready” for U.S. missile strikes in Syria in retaliation for the attack. On Thursday, however, he tweeted: “Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!”

 Amid the talk of military action, the Kremlin, a close ally of Assad, countered that more “serious approaches” were needed to combat the crisis. 

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There was no official announcement by Damascus that its forces had retaken the town of Douma, located near the capital Damascus, from rebels. There was also no indication that Syrian government forces had entered Douma on Thursday, the Associated Press reported. 

If confirmed, the town’s seizure would mark the last stage of the regime of Syrian Assad’s takeover of the rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta. The Syrian government and Russia have denied a chemical attack occurred. 

Assad said Thursday that Western threats to strike Syria are based on “lies” and seek to undermine his forces’ advances near Damascus. He spoke during a meeting with Ali Akbar Velayati, an aide to the supreme leader of his ally, Iran.

The talks stressed that threats of some Western countries to attack Syria, “based on the lies fabricated by these countries and their tools of the terrorist organizations inside Syria, came after the liberation of the eastern Ghouta and the failure of a new bet of those upon which these countries have relied in the war on Syria.” Syria’s official SANA news agency reported.

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“Whenever the Syrian army achieves victory in the field, some western countries rise their voices and intensify their movements in an attempt to change the track of events,” Assad said, according to SANA.

The Syrian president added that the threats endanger international peace and security and that military action would only contribute to the “further destabilization” of the region.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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