May 28, 2019 / 7:46 PM / 22 days ago

France says signs of Syria chemical attack, but still checking

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s foreign minister said on Tuesday there were signs that chemicals had been used in attacks by Syrian government forces on rebels in northwest Syria, but they still needed to be verified.

The United States said on May 23 it had received numerous reports that appeared consistent with chemical exposure after forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched an offensive on the rebel stronghold.

“We have a sign of the use of chemical weapons in the Idlib area but for now there isn’t verification,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told the French parliament’s foreign affairs committee.

“We are cautious because we think that the use of chemical weapons must be confirmed and lethal before we react,” he said.

Syria’s government denies using chemical weapons.

The United States, Britain and France launched air strikes in April 2018 against what they described as three Syrian chemical weapons targets in retaliation for a suspected gas attack that killed scores of people in the Damascus suburb earlier that month.

Rebels fighting on the mountainous western edge of Syria’s last big rebel enclave of Idlib said on May 19 that the army had shelled them with poison gas, leading some to suffer choking symptoms. They said they had not documented the attack because they were under bombardment when it occurred.

Reporting by John Irish; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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