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Report: Obama call prevented French strikes on Syria 'hours before launch'
Paper claims France was 'hours' before launching aerial attack against Syria when Hollande received telephone call from Obama informing him US was backing down from joint attack plan in favor of congressional support
France was set to launch an aerial attack in Syria in response to the chemical attack on a Damascus suburb until US President Barack Obama called his French counterpart and requested he put off the attack, British newspaper The Independent reported.

 

According to the report, which quotes the French newspaper Nouvel Observateur, French President Francois Hollande received a phone call from US President Barack Obama on August 31, "hours" before the attack was set to be launched.

 

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According to The Independent, the report in Nouvel Observateur claimed Obama placed a phone call to the French leader in which he informed a “stunned” Hollande that despite a planned US-French strike against Syira, Obama would in fact seek congressional support of an attack, thus effectively lifting the threat despite the two nation's agreement.

 


צילום: AP

French President Francois Hollande (Photo: AP)

 

The report claimed that at the time of Obama's call, Rafale aircraft were prepared for take-off and official statements were already prepared in anticipation of the attack,

 

“Everything made us think that D-Day had arrived,” a French official is quoted in Nouvel Observateur as saying, adding that the "incredible misunderstanding lasted until the end of the afternoon,” at around 6 pm Saturday when Obama phoned Hollande. According to The Independent, the strikes was suppose to begin at 3 am that night, and were expected to target rocket batteries as well as the command centers of the division responsible for Syria's chemical arms.

 

At the time of the call, Hollande was expecting to give the attack the greenlight. His inclination was based on an agreement with the US that the two nations would launch a joint military intervention operation against Syria.

 

However, despite the agreement between France and the US, Obama ended up changing his mind after allegedly speaking with Denis McDonough, his chief of staff, The Independent reported.

 

When asked for a response by The Independent on the Nouvel Observateur report, the French Defense Ministry kept mum. However, the paper quoted a retired military official as interpreting the incident as a slight to France's pride. “President Obama’s U-turn reflects a great contempt by the United States for France," General Vincent Desportes is quoted as telling the French channel Le Monde in the beginning of September.

 

Syria 'will comply'

Earlier Monday, embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad said that Damascus "will comply" with a UN Security Council resolution ordering the destruction of the country's chemical arsenal, Syrian state news agency SANA reported.

 

Assad gives interview to Italy's RaiNews24 (Video: Reuters)

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"Of course we will comply with it, and history proves that we have always honored all treaties we have signed," Assad said during an interview with Italian broadcaster Rai News 24, whose content was published by SANA.

 

The remarks were Assad's first since the UN Security Council passed a resolution Friday ordering the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons and condemning a devastating attack near Damascus.

 

Resolution 2118, the result of bruising negotiations between the United States and Russia, gives binding force to a plan drawn up to eliminate Assad's chemical arms.

 

 

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