French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said that French tests on samples from Syria "demonstrate the presence of sarin" gas and that it was employed "on multiple occasions." In one case, he blamed the government.
Laurent Fabius released a brief statement on Tuesday, saying France was certain that the nerve agent sarin had been used in Syria, without specifying where or by whom at first. The foreign minister said analyses of samples from Syria led his government to the conclusion.
"These tests demonstrate the presence of sarin in the samples in our possession," the statement said. "As of now, France is certain that sarin gas has been used in Syria on multiple occasions and in a localized manner."
Fabius also wrote in his statement that "it would be unacceptable that those responsible for these crimes go unpunished." The original statement did not say where the samples were taken or whether the French government suspected either President Bashar al-Assad's troops or rebel fighters of using the gas, though Fabius appeared on the evening news later and said France suspected the government forces in at least one instance.
The White House responded with caution on Tuesday, saying further evidence was required.
"We need to expand the evidence we have," White House spokesman Jay Carney said. "We have to make it reviewable, we have to have it corroborated." US President Barack Obama had previously called chemical weapon usage in Syria a "red line," both sides in the civil war accuse each other of using chemical weapons.
'No doubt in one case'
Fabius subsequently appeared on France 2 television on Tuesday evening, saying "we have no doubt of the fact that the gases were used."
Asked who was considered reponsible, Fabius said that in one of the instances, "there is no doubt that it was the regime and its accomplices," saying that a line had thus been crossed.
"We are in talks with our partners - the US, the English and so forth - on what might be necessary as a possible reaction. All options are on the table," Fabius said.
UN investigators published a report on Monday surmising that there were "reasonable grounds to believe that limited quantities of toxic chemicals were used" in Syria, but also said they were not certain.
msh/rc (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)