France warns Syria about possibly tougher UN action

PARIS — France on Wednesday warned that if Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime doesn’t fully implement an international peace plan it will seek U.N. action under a provision that includes possible military action.

PARIS — France on Wednesday warned that if Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime doesn’t fully implement an international peace plan it will seek U.N. action under a provision that includes possible military action.

The comments from French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe signalled that Paris is increasingly lining up behind a U.S. position laid out by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last week.

Juppe floated the prospect that France could push for Security Council action under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which can be militarily enforced. But Russia and China would almost certainly veto any such resolution, and the two countries have objected to even mentioning the threat of sanctions.

The Syrian government’s crackdown on a popular uprising is estimated to have killed more than 9,000 people over the past 13 months.

Juppe also demanded that 300 U.N. observers authorized to go into Syria be deployed within 15 days, and said France has all but set a May 5 deadline for Damascus to comply with special envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan.

“We think this mediation should be given a chance, on the condition that the deployment of the observer mission happens quickly,” Juppe said after a meeting with Syrian dissidents at his ministry. The plan isn’t dead, he said, but “it is severely compromised.”

Annan’s scheduled May 5 report on the state of a cease-fire called for under his six-point peace plan will be “a moment of truth: Either this mediation is working, or it isn’t,” Juppe said.

“We cannot allow ourselves to be defied by the current regime,” he added, insisting that Assad’s government has not held to the Annan plan.

Juppe said France has been discussing with other world powers the prospect of invoking Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, which allows for action that could be militarily enforceable.

During Paris talks last week by key members of the so-called “Friends of Syria” group, Clinton also mentioned a Chapter 7 resolution despite concern that it would be vetoed by Russia and China. Russia, in particular, has largely defended its longtime ally Syria against the threat of U.N. sanctions.

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