France wants to arm Syria rebels in ‘controlled environment’

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France supports arming Syrian rebels in a “controlled environment,” President Francois Hollande said on Thursday, as the United States called for United Nations to enforce a deal to destroy the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons.

Speaking at a press conference in Bamako, Hollande said: “The Russians regularly send (weapons) but we will do it in a broader context, with a number of countries and a framework which can be controlled, because we cannot have a situation where weapons end up with Islamists,” AFP reported.

Hollande’s statement came an hour after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said it was essential that a Russia-U.S. deal on eradicating Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal be enforced and that the U.N. Security Council must act on it next week.

“The Security Council must be prepared to act next week,” Kerry told reporters. “It is vital for the international community to stand up and speak out in the strongest possible terms about the importance of enforceable action to rid the world of Syria’s chemical weapons.”

Envoys from the five big U.N. powers are meeting in New York before the U.N. General Assembly next week to discuss a plan to place Syrian chemical weapons under international control, according to Reuters.

Russia and the United States brokered the deal last week to avoid possible U.S. military strikes. Under the deal, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would account for his chemical weapons within a week and see them destroyed by the middle of next year.

Kerry said there was little doubt that the Aug. 21 gas attack on civilians outside Damascus was the work of Assad’s forces and not of the opposition.

Russia, which holds veto power in the Security Council, has said there is no proof that Assad’s forces were responsible and denounced findings of a U.N. report that confirmed that the nerve gas sarin was used in the attack.

“This fight about Syria’s chemical weapons is not a game. It is real. It is important,” Kerry added.

Kerry also said that recent comments by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who said on Wednesday his government would never develop nuclear weapons, were positive, but cautioned that “everything needs to be put to the test.”

(With AFP and Reuters)

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