France urges early U.N. vote on tough Syria resolution
PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande called on Sunday for a U.N. resolution on Syria backed by the threat of punitive action to be voted by the end of this week.
Speaking on French prime-time television, Hollande added that while a political and diplomatic solution to the wider Syrian conflict was possible, the option of military strikes must remain on the table.
Hollande called the Russia-U.S. deal this weekend on removing Syria's chemical weapons an "important step" towards a possible political solution to its civil war.
He said the foreign ministers of France, Britain and the United States would already start to shape a resolution based on the accord at talks scheduled in Paris on Monday. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is then due to discuss it with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday.
"We can vote on this resolution before the end of the week," Hollande told France's TF1 television, noting: "It must include the threat of sanctions - that there is some kind of sanction if it is not applied."
Hollande defended his country's readiness to envisage strikes against Bashar al-Assad's forces as part of an international coalition including the United States - a prospect that has subsided in recent days.
"We can now seriously think of a diplomatic solution, but the military option must remain. Otherwise there is nothing to stop Syria."
When asked whether he still wanted Assad to leave power, Hollande said he had always favoured such an outcome and that the Russian-U.S. accord opened the way for a wider political settlement of the crisis in which Assad would lose power.
"The best way to get rid of him comes through this agreement," he said.
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