France And Syria: The American President’s Trailer

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France took no part in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, which it strongly opposed, but joined the United States, Britain and others in a military intervention that helped oust Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. POLITICAL LIABILITY, DIPLOMATIC ASSET Kerry, who learned French as a boy, found his fluency a liability during his 2004 U.S. presidential campaign, feeding an image of the Democrat as a wealthy elitist that his Republican opponent, then-President George W. Bush, exploited. As a diplomat, however, it is an asset, allowing him to speak directly to the French about their unhappy history with chemical warfare during World War One as one reason why the French government is sensitive to its alleged use in Syria. “Some of the very first lethal chemical weapons attacks happened here, on French soil, during the First World War and a large number of these victims of these deadly, indiscriminate weapons were young French soldiers, just 19 or 20 years old,” he said. Fabius, an experienced politician best known for having been France’s youngest prime minister, showed a rare moment of intensity and outrage about an August 21 attack in Syria in which the Syrian government is accused of using sarin gas. Syria, embroiled in a 2-1/2-year-old civil war in which more than 100,000 are believed to have died, denies that. “You have to look at the images of these children in rows with the shrouds over them, not an injury, not a drop of blood? And they are there and they are sleeping forever,” Fabius said, visibly shaken. “There’s a dictator who did it and is ready to start again,” he said gesticulating with his fists. “This concerns us, too.

France says to take extra year to meet EU deficit target

The U.S. has said more than 1,400 Syrians died; even conservative estimates from international organizations put the toll at several hundred. France, a permanent member of the 15-nation Security Council, will start the process at the United Nations on Tuesday under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which is militarily enforceable, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said at a news conference organized shortly after meeting with the French president. President Barack Obama threw his support behind the resolution even as he pushed the idea of U.S. airstrikes against Assad’s regime if that effort fails. British Prime Minister David Cameron said his country would join France and the U.S. in putting forward the proposal. Fabius said the French resolution would demand that Syria open its chemical weapons program to inspection, place it under international control, and ultimately dismantle it. A violation of that commitment, he said, would carry “very serious consequences.” The resolution would condemn the attack and bring those responsible to justice, he said. Fabius expressed caution that French authorities “don’t want to fall into a trap” that could allow Assad’s regime to skirt accountability or buy time. “We do not want this to be used as a diversion,” Fabius said. “It is by accepting these precise conditions that we will judge the credibility of the intentions expressed yesterday.” The details and timeframe of the French proposal remained vague, but Fabius said he expected a “nearly immediate” and tangible commitment from Syria. Within two hours, he had a response from his Syrian counterpart, Walid al-Moallem. “We agreed to the Russian initiative as it should thwart the U.S.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) arrives for a meeting with French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius (2nd L) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris September 7, 2013. REUTERS/Susan Walsh/Pool

A vote came only after a few months, as it must under the constitution if a military engagement abroad is extended. Yet Mr Obama’s decision to go to Congress has altered the equation. In Mali French interests were directly at stake, time was short, a political consensus backed intervention, and the Malian government had asked France for help. Over Syria, by contrast, the sense of urgency has slipped, political opinion is divided and the French do not see an immediate threat to their security. Polls show that between 59% and 64% of those surveyed are against military action. Politicians are also split. Most of the Socialists are in favour, although some Greens, whose party sits in government, and the far left, which does not, are against. The opposition UMP is wary. Many politicians are uncomfortable with the idea of acting without UN backing. Memories of the consequences of an American-led intervention in Iraq without UN approval remain fresh. It was the threat of a UN Security Council veto by Jacques Chirac, then president, and France’s doubts about American evidence of weapons of mass destruction, that forced the Americans to seek a coalition outside the UN. “There is no Iraq syndrome in France in the sense that we distrust our government,” says Francois Heisbourg of the Foundation for Strategic Research.

As US, France eye military action, Syria accepts Russian proposal on chemical weapons controls

Credit: Reuters/Francois Lenoir PARIS | Tue Sep 10, 2013 2:23pm BST PARIS (Reuters) – France will not bring its public deficit in line with an EU-limit until 2015 instead of next year as planned so far, Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said on Tuesday. With tax revenues weak so far this year, the government had been widely expected to take an extra year to cut its deficit to 3 percent of economic output. The European Commission in May already gave France a two-year reprieve on what was initially a 2013 target in return for commitment to structural reforms. “The European Commission gave France two years to get under 3 percent of GDP and we are going to use those two years,” Moscovici told Reuters at a conference. The government had targeted a deficit this year of 3.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and had initially aimed to bring it down to 2.9 percent in 2014. The European Commission sees little chance that the 3-percent target can be reached next year and has said France can take until 2015 in order to avoid too much budget tightening and strangling a nascent recovery. The government’s fiscal targets have come under pressure this year with a weak tax take while spending remains high after Europe’s second-biggest economy suffered a short, shallow recession at the start of the year. President Francois Hollande’s government will update its deficit targets and growth forecasts in its 2014 budget when it is presented on September 25. “The public deficit will be slightly higher than expected,” Moscovici told French radio RMC, referring to 2013. (Reporting by Leigh Thomas, John Irish and Jean-Baptiste Vey; editing by Mark John)

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