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The Globe and Mail

France ready to recognize Syria opposition government

France's President Francois Hollande, gestures as he speaks to France's ambassadors at the Elysee Palace, Monday, Aug. 27, 2012.

Bertrand Langlois/AP

French President Francois Hollande stepped up pressure on Syria Monday, saying France would recognize a provisional government and warning of a foreign intervention if the regime uses chemical weapons.

In a speech to French diplomats, Mr. Hollande called for an "intensification of efforts for the political transition to take place quickly" and urged the Syrian opposition to form a "provisional, inclusive and representative" government.

"France will recognize the provisional government of the new Syria as soon as it is formed," he said.

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Echoing similar comments from the United States and Britain, he also warned the regime of President Bashar al-Assad that using chemical weapons would be a legitimate reason for a foreign intervention.

"We with our allies remain very watchful to prevent the use of chemical weapons by the regime, which would be for the international community a legitimate cause for direct intervention," Mr. Hollande said.

Mr. Hollande also confirmed France was working with its partners on the possible establishment of buffer zones within Syria to receive people displaced by the conflict and prevent them flooding over the borders into neighbouring states.

Turkey in particular has been pushing for such a move, which would require military back-up to ensure the security of the refugees.

"We are working ... (on) the initiative of buffer zones proposed by Turkey," Mr. Hollande said, adding that "we are doing so in coordination with our closest partners."

Mr. Hollande said the opposition of Russia and China to action against the Syrian regime was weakening the United Nations.

"I am saying to Russia and to China that their attitude in the Syria crisis is weakening our capacity to fulfill the mandate given us by the United Nations charter," he said.

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"Our country only participates in operations to keep the peace or protect civilians by virtue of a mandate and therefore a resolution of the United Nations Security Council," Mr. Hollande said.

"For this the (Security Council) members must take their responsibility to allow it to take decisions," he said.

Mr. Hollande said resolving the Syria crisis was crucial not only for the country itself but for the region as a whole.

"I know the difficulty of the task, I understand the risks, but the stakes go beyond Syria. This concerns the security of all the Middle East and in particular the independence and stability of Lebanon," he said.

Mr. Hollande also touched on Iran in the speech outlining his foreign policy priorities, saying it was unacceptable for Tehran to obtain nuclear weapons and warning of new sanctions.

"It would be unacceptable for Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon and this country must meet its international obligations," Mr. Hollande said.

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"As long as Iran does not answer all questions (on its nuclear programme) and does not conform to international law, it is France's responsibility to further increase sanctions against the Iranian regime."

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