French President Francois Hollande said he’s willing to ship weapons to Syrian rebels if the U.S. Congress fails to authorize a strike against the regime in Damascus.
The French military would only hit targets in Syria in a U.S.-led coalition, Hollande said after the Group of 20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. If Congress rejects U.S. participation, France will provide Syrian rebels with more potent military equipment, Hollande said.
In case President Barack Obama fails to win backing from lawmakers, France would provide the opposition with “full means,” Hollande said. France would supply “everything they need to increase military pressure that will lead to a political solution,” he said.
Obama has asked Congress to vote on allowing the U.S. military to target the regime of Bashar al-Assad to punish it over a chemical attack that killed hundreds in a Damascus suburb Aug. 21. Hollande, who has said France will take part in those strikes, said he doesn’t plan to seek a vote in parliament.
France already provides observation and communications equipment to Syrian rebel factions. It has so far refrained from providing lethal weapons.
“A military strike would accelerate a political solution, that’s what people have to understand,” Hollande said. “If people think we can have a political solution by allowing the regime to kill, to gas, to exterminate, well it’s been going on for two years and it will continue. That, I refuse.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Gregory Viscusi in Paris at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at firstname.lastname@example.org