PARIS: France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius dismissed Sunday a newspaper report that Syrian forces had used nonlethal chemical weapons against rebels in the town of Homs in late December.
French daily Le Monde Saturday cited unidentified intelligence sources as saying chemicals were used in four rockets fired on Dec. 23.
The newspaper said Western powers had previously warned that recourse to chemical weapons could force them into action in a deadly conflict where President Bashar Assad has used troops to crush an uprising now nearly two years old.
“That was alleged and we requested verification, not just us but other countries too,” said Fabius. “And it was not conclusive. We were told, ‘No.’”
Le Monde quoted French Foreign Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot as having told the paper that the matter had been investigated but that the checks had not produced evidence.
A French diplomatic source contacted by Reuters said Lalliot’s response to Le Monde remained the official line.
“We checked this out, closely, and notably the videos that were circulating. We cannot say that combat gas or any lethal chemical products were deployed,” Le Monde quoted Lalliot as having told it of the chemical weapons reports.
The diplomatic source contacted by Reuters said this was and remained the case.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 21, 2013, on page 8.