PARIS (Reuters) - France denounced Syria’s assurance that its forces were complying with a U.N.-backed ceasefire deal as a “blatant lie” and urged foreign governments on Tuesday to challenge President Bashar al-Assad’s administration.
In scarcely diplomatic language, the French Foreign Ministry spokesman said: ”The Syrian foreign minister’s statements this morning, affirming an initial implementation of the Annan plan by the Damascus regime, are a fresh expression of this blatant and unacceptable lie.
“They are indicative of a feeling of impunity against which the international community absolutely must react,” the spokesman, Bernard Valero, told reporters in Paris.
Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said in a statement released late on Tuesday: “Assad lied to Kofi Annan, who has the total support of the international community.”
Visiting Moscow, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem had said troops were already pulling back from cities in line with a peace plan brokered by international envoy Annan.
But, citing Syrian sources and satellite images, Valero said “none of the elements” of Annan’s plan had been implemented.
“There is what the regime’s representatives are saying and then there is the reality,” he said. “On average 100 people are dying each day and it continues. Today, Syrian security forces are still firing on populated areas and using heavy weapons, armored vehicles and helicopters. That’s the reality.”
Valero also referred to shots fired on Syrian refugees in Turkey and said that Damascus was now not just “massacring its own people but violating the sovereignty of its neighbors”.
He said France would host a meeting next week of governments seeking to tighten sanctions against Damascus.
France, where President Nicolas Sarkozy is battling for re-election this month, has led calls for Assad to step aside and has championed the rebel cause for the past year. His early military championing of the Libyan opposition, leading to the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, won Sarkozy praise at home and abroad.
Juppe said he would talk with G8 partners at a meeting on Wednesday to push the U.N. Security Council for further measures to “impose the end of violence and a political process”.
Additional Reporting by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Alastair Macdonald