French U.N. envoy rules out military action in Syria

PARIS Tue Dec 13, 2011 11:31am EST

PARIS (Reuters) - France's ambassador to the United Nations ruled out using military force for now in Syria saying everything had to be done politically to avoid Syria and the Middle East as a whole being set "ablaze."

"It's is not just the humanitarian situation we have to worry about, but the risk that Syria slides into civil war and that the whole region is set on fire," Gerard Araud told French private television station i<tele. "We need a political situation and to put pressure on the Assad regime."

France has led Western efforts to try to force Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to end the crackdown and has suggested a need to set up zones to protect civilians, the first proposal by a major Western power for outside intervention on the ground.

When asked if France and the United States were thinking of unilateral action or helping train and equip the Free Syrian Army, Araud said:

"For now what is at stake is the action of the Arab League. Every country has a specific set of circumstances. There was Libya, but Syria is completely different. Nobody is thinking of a military solution because the dangers would be huge for the region."

A report in French weekly Le Canard Enchaine on November 23, citing a French military intelligence source, said French and British special forces had made contact with Syrian rebel soldiers in Turkey and Lebanon to establish how strong they were and pave the way for training them, should the decision be made.

France's Foreign Ministry categorically denied new reports on Tuesday that French special forces were operating in Turkey or Lebanon.

(Reporting By John Irish)

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