Syrian coalition urges strike on Assad, military support

PARIS Thu Aug 29, 2013 4:44am EDT

French President Francois Hollande (R) welcomes Ahmad Jarba (C), head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, August 29, 2013. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

French President Francois Hollande (R) welcomes Ahmad Jarba (C), head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, August 29, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jacky Naegelen

PARIS (Reuters) - The opposition Syrian National Coalition urged Western powers to launch a punitive strike against Bashar al-Assad's government quickly and offer real military and political support to stop people being "exterminated".

President Barack Obama has made a case for a limited military strike against Syria in response to last week's alleged chemical weapons attack, but any action could be slowed by the presence of U.N. weapons inspectors near Damascus and the need to ease divisions in Britain and among U.S. lawmakers.

Syrian National Coalition president Ahmad Jarba told the French daily Le Parisien in an interview published on Thursday he hoped to see a strike and support for the Syrian Free Army.

He said Assad should be tried in the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

"Assad's regime has complete support from Russia, Hezbollah and Iran. We have nothing. Our allies have given us none of what we have asked for. We need real support," Jarba said.

"If Western states, which profess democratic and humanist values, stay quiet, Assad will deduce that there is no obstacle to him carrying out crimes. Our people risk being exterminated."

France has said it is ready to punish those behind the chemical attack, but Britain changed its stance on Wednesday, saying the United Nations Security Council should first see the weapons inspectors' findings and that the British parliament would hold two votes before any military action is taken.

A French warship, the Chevalier Paul, left its dock at the Mediterranean port of Toulon this week, shipping authorities told Reuters on Thursday, though they declined to confirm a media report that the frigate was headed to Syria.

Military sources said France's Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier was still docked in Toulon as of Thursday.

Jarba urged the allies to make a decision.

"If there is intervention, the regime will not survive for long. What's essential is to take a courageous decision," Jarba said. "We need our friends. They should not stop at just words."

(Reporting by Catherine Bremer, editing by Elizabeth Piper)

FILED UNDER: