France will strike if evidence of chemical weapon use appears in Syria: Macron

resident Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday that "France will strike" if chemical weapons are used against civilians in the Syria. (AFP)
Updated 14 February 2018
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France will strike if evidence of chemical weapon use appears in Syria: Macron

PARIS: France will launch strikes if proof emerges that the Syrian regime has used banned chemical weapons against its civilians, President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday.
“We will strike the place where these launches are made or where they are organized,” Macron told the presidential press corps.
“But today our services have not established proof that proscribed chemical weapons have been used against civilian populations,” he added.
“As soon as such proof is established, I will do what I said,” Macron warned, while adding that “the priority is the fight against the terrorists, the jihadists.”
Regarding the Syrian regime itself, either during or after the conflict; “it will be answerable to international justice” he added.
Macron also called for an international meeting on Syria, in the region if possible.
In a telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, Macron said he was “worried about indications suggesting the possible use of chlorine on several occasions against the civilian population in Syria these last few weeks.”
Russia has intervened alongside Syrian regime forces in the seven-year civil war and Putin is seen as the foreign leader with the most influence over Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Receiving Putin at Versailles in May 2017, Macron had declared that France would respond immediately to any use of chemical weapons in Syria.
“A very clear red line exists on our side: the use of chemical weapons by anyone,” Macron said, promising “retaliation and an immediate response from France.”
According to Washington, at least six chlorine attacks have been reported since early January in rebel areas, with dozens injured.
The Syrian government in late January denied carrying out chemical weapons attacks and its ally Moscow denounced the charges as a “propaganda campaign,” stressing that the perpetrators had not been identified.
While France, like the United States, suspects the Syrian regime, it says it does not yet have concrete evidence on the nature and origin of the attacks.
On Wednesday last week, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said “all indications” suggest that Assad’s forces were using chlorine weapons in the civil war against rebel forces, but being cautious said “we haven’t completely documented this.”
But Defense Minister Florence Parly was more reserved on Friday when asked if Damascus had crossed the “red line.”
“At the moment because we don’t know what happened and the consequences of what happened, we can’t say we are where you say we are,” she told France Inter radio when asked about the “red line” Macron had set out in May.
“We have some indications of the use of chlorine, but we do not have absolute confirmation, so it is this confirmation work that we are doing with others because obviously we have to establish the facts,” she said.
Damascus has repeatedly been accused of using chemical weapons, with the United Nations among those blaming government forces for an April 2017 sarin gas attack on the opposition-held village of Khan Sheikhun that left scores dead.
 


Sudan security forces tear gas protesters in Omdurman

Updated 22 January 2019
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Sudan security forces tear gas protesters in Omdurman

  • The mushrooming protests are widely seen as the biggest threat to Bashir’s rule
  • Protesters described using medical masks soaked in vinegar to fend off tear gas

KHARTOUM: Sudanese police fired tear gas at crowds of demonstrators in the capital’s twin city Omdurman on Tuesday protesting against the fatal wounding of a demonstrator last week, witnesses said.

The demonstration, which came ahead of planned nighttime rallies in both Omdurman and Khartoum just across the Nile, was the latest in more than a month of escalating protests against the three-decade rule of President Omar Bashir.

Bashir has made defiant appearances at loyalist rallies in Khartoum and other cities.

Chanting “overthrow, overthrow” and “freedom, peace and justice,” the catchword slogans of the protest movement, the demonstrators had gathered near the home of their dead comrade.

The doctors’ branch of the Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA) said he had died on Monday from wounds sustained when demonstrators clashed with security forces in Khartoum on Thursday.

The SPA has taken the lead in organizing the protests after hundreds of opposition activists were detained, and its doctors’ branch has taken casualties.

Human rights groups say that several medics have been among more than 40 people killed in clashes with the security forces since the protests erupted on Dec. 19, 2018.

The authorities say 26 people have been killed, including at least one doctor, but blame rebel provocateurs they say have infiltrated the protesters’ ranks.

The mushrooming protests are widely seen as the biggest threat to Bashir’s rule since he took power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989.

Triggered by the government’s tripling of the price of bread, which brought demonstrators onto the streets of the eastern farming hub of Atbara and other provincial towns, the protests rapidly spread to the metropolis and other big cities as people vented their anger against the government.

A chronic shortage of foreign currency since the breakaway of South Sudan in 2011 deprived the government of most of its oil revenues, has stoked spiraling inflation and widespread shortages.

Bashir has survived previous protest movements in September 2013 and January last year.

But his efforts to blame the US for Sudan’s economic woes have fallen on increasingly deaf ears as people have struggled to buy even basic foods and medicines.

“I am tired of prices going up every minute and standing up in bread lines for hours only for the bakery’s owner to decide how many loaves I can buy,” a 42-year-old woman, Fatima, said during protests last week on the outskirts of the capital of Khartoum.

Fatima and others speaking to the AP would not provide their full names, insisting on anonymity because they fear reprisals by the authorities.

Protesters described using medical masks soaked in vinegar or yeast and tree leaves to fend off tear gas. They said they try to fatigue police by staging nighttime flash protests in residential alleys unfamiliar to the security forces.

“We have used tactics employed by the Egyptians, Tunisians and Syrians but we have so far refrained from pelting security forces with rocks or firebombs,” said Ashraf, another demonstrator.

They said there was little they can do about live ammunition except to keep medics and doctors close by to administer first aid to casualties.

They also described checking paths of planned protests to identify escape routes and potential ambushes by police. Some of their slogans are borrowed from the Arab Spring days, like “the people want to bring down the regime.”