France, US at odds over Syria’s chemical weapons, says diplomat

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France and the United States are headed towards a rift over Syria’s chemical weapons, a French diplomat told Al Arabiya on Thursday.

Paris said on Tuesday it had conclusive evidence of the use of sarin gas several times in Damascus, through tests conducted on samples obtained from Syria.

The White House said it needed more evidence, and US Secretary of State John Kerry asked France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to share its evidence.

The use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime has been described as a “red line” by US President Barack Obama.

“It’s true that we don’t have the same means of verification that the United States has, and it’s true what they say about ‘technical difficulty’ in the verification of the various stages of the transfer of samples,” the diplomat said.

“But we’re sure” about “the use of sarin gas in southern Homs and Jobar on April 29,” he added.
Verification was more complicated in Jobar because “the examined blood samples weren’t in perfect condition,” the diplomat said.

“With consideration to America’s obligation and priority to make the Geneva 2 conference a success, our duty in parallel is to announce the truth about the use of chemical weapons,” he said.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters that the US did not intend to “evaluate or litigate in public” whatever information it has received from Paris.

“We are still looking into finalizing the facts, looking into confirming the facts,” she said, denying that the close inspection of the French information was pouring doubt on its credibility.

“We’re doing our own due diligence on this,” Psaki stressed.

The Obama administration “intends to avoid any military escalation, afraid of not being able to stop it once it starts,” Obama added.

“I’m afraid to say that Washington is largely isolated,” he said.

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