LE FIGARO (France)
DAMASCUS — Bashar al-Assad warned France not to launch a military strike, which the Syrian president said would support terrorism against the interests of the Syrian people. In an exclusive interview with French newspaper Le Figaro, Assad said that should Paris take part in a military intervention, "there will be repercussions, negative of course, for French interests."
Assad also reasserted that the Syrian army had not carried the chemical attack on August 21, challenging the United States, France and other countries that claim otherwise to publish convincing evidence. "All the accusations are based on allegations made by terrorists and on arbitrary video clips broadcast on the Internet," Assad said. "If the Americans, the French or the British had even a single (sign of) proof, they would have shown it from day one. We do not discuss rumors. We only deal with facts. If what they say is true, let them provide evidence of it."
The interview took place before the French government published its report Monday night on the alleged chemical attack of August 21. The nine-page document says that Assad's forces used chemical weapons three times between April and August and that the rebels do not have the capabilities to carry such an attack.
Speaking about U.S. President Barack Obama's decision to wait for a Sep. 9 vote by Congress on whether to intervene, Assad told Le Figaro: "For us, a strong man prevents rather than starts a war. … But Obama is weak because he is facing pressure from within the United States."
With the French Parliament due to debate France's participation in a possible military intervention on Wednesday, Assad said: "How can France fight terrorism in Mali but support it in Syria? Will France become an example of the political double standards promoted by the US?"
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced Monday evening that the parliamentary debate will not be followed by a vote, leaving the decision in the hands of President Francois Hollande.
Le Figaro reports that a recent poll shows 64% of French citizens oppose an intervention in Syria.