France was ready for a strike on chemical weapons facilities in Syria on the day US President Barack Obama decided to seek approval from Congress for the strike, French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur reported on Sunday.
According to the weekly, French President Francois Hollande called off the strike on August 31, after readying his military for the strike, and preparing to justify it to the French people and the world.
Rafale fighter jets, armed with Scalp cruise missiles with a range of 250 km, were ready to fire at targets in western Syria, including Damascus, the paper reported. The jets were to attack while flying over international waters in the Mediterranean, avoiding Turkish airspace to prevent Syrian retaliation against its neighbor.
French government officials had statements ready for when the strike starts, and the French intelligence had prepared a declassified report with evidence showing chemical weapons were used on August 21 in Damascus.
The strike was due to start at 3 a.m. on September 1, while everyone are asleep, to minimize civilian casualties, a government official told the paper.
After receiving indications from the Americans that the strike was imminent in the days leading up to the US president's announcement, Obama called Hollande on Saturday August 31 at 6:15 p.m., telling him he had decided to ask for Congress's approval before going ahead with the strike.
Hollande was stunned, the paper reported, and tried to convince Obama to reconsider, but was unsuccessful.