France says it could take military action in Syria without Britain

French President Francois Hollande says, "Each country is sovereign to participate or not in operation."

Hollande gesturing wildly, 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohammed Dabbous)
Hollande gesturing wildly, 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohammed Dabbous)
French President Francois Hollande said a British parliamentary vote against taking military action in Syria would not affect France's will to act to punish Bashar Assad's government for an apparent chemical weapons attack on civilians.
Hollande told the daily Le Monde in an interview that he supported taking "firm" punitive action over an attack he said had caused "irreparable" harm to the Syrian people and said he would work closely with France's allies.
Asked if France could take action without Britain, Hollande replied: "Yes. Each country is sovereign to participate or not in an operation. That is valid for Britain as it is for France."
Hollande is not constrained by the need for parliamentary approval of any move to intervene in Syria and could act, if he chose, before a parliamentary debate on the issue set for Wednesday.
Hollande told Le Monde that he would not take any decision to act unless the conditions were there to justify that.
"All the options are on the table. France wants action that is in proportion and firm against the Damascus regime," he said.
"There are few countries that have the capacity to inflict a sanction by the appropriate means. France is one of them. We are ready. We will decide our position in close liaison with our allies."
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Friday, after Britain's parliament rejected military action, that Wshington will continue to seek out an international coalition to act together on Syria.
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"It is the goal of President (Barack) Obama and our government ... whatever decision is taken, that it be an international collaboration and effort," Hagel said during a trip to the Philippines, adding that the United States would continue to consult with Britain.
"Our approach is to continue to find an international coalition that will act together. And I think you're seeing a number of countries state, publicly state, their position on the use of chemical weapons."
White House spokesman Josh Earnest, before the British vote that failed on Thursday regarding military action in Syria, suggested that the United States might be willing to act on its own.
"When the president reaches a determination about the appropriate response ... and a legal justification is required to substantiate or to back up that decision, we'll produce one on our own," Earnest said.
President Barack Obama will decide on a response to chemical weapons use in Syria based on US interests, but Washington will continue to consult with Britain after its parliament rejected a motion supporting military action, the White House also said.
"We have seen the result of the parliament vote in the UK tonight. The US will continue to consult with the UK government - one of our closest allies and friends," said White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden in a statement.
Although Washington insisted the US would consult with Britain on military action in Syria, "President Obama's decision-making will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States. He believes that there are core interests at stake for the United States and that countries who violate international norms regarding chemical weapons need to be held accountable," she said.
The British parliament earlier on Thursday rejected a motion supporting military action in Syria, reflecting deep divisions about using force to punish President Bashar Assad for what Western governments believe was his use of chemical weapons against civilians.