France warns of more strikes in Syria

More strikes to come if 'red lines' are crossed again: Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian

By Hajer M'tiri

PARIS (AA) - France will carry out more strikes against the Syrian regime if red lines are crossed again, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned on Saturday.

Speaking to French broadcaster BFMTV, Le Drian said there was "no doubt" about the suspected chemical attack in Douma.

"Chlorine was definitely used," he said.

Le Drian said: "If ... the red line is crossed again, there will be new strikes."

He said the objectives of the joint airstrikes had been met, adding: "I think the lesson will have been learnt."

The French strikes, involving 12 cruise missiles, fighter jets and warships, were President Emmanuel Macron’s first major military decision since taking office in May last year.

Macron had repeatedly vowed France would intervene if the Syrian regime crossed the "red line" and used chemical weapons in Syria.

The foreign minister said a large part of Syria’s chemical arsenal had been destroyed, and all French jets returned safely.

Le Drian insisted it was important to continue talking to Russia, and that Macron’s trip to St. Petersburg at the end of May would go ahead as planned.

"This action was proportionate and targeted, it was not aimed at Assad’s allies nor at the civilian population," Le Drian said earlier in a joint televised statement with Defense Minister Florence Parly.

Parly said "Russians were warned beforehand", adding that France does "not seek confrontation, and we refuse any possibility of military escalation".

The U.S., U.K. and France jointly launched strikes early on Saturday targeting the Assad regime's alleged chemical weapons research center near Damascus, a chemical weapons warehouse and a command center linked to chemical weapons located west of Homs, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford said at a joint news conference with American Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

The White Helmets, a civil defense agency, blamed the Assad regime for an alleged chemical attack earlier this month, which it said killed 78 civilians and injured hundreds of others.

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