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France 'does not seek confrontation' post Syria strikes

France, which joined the United States and Britain in carrying out "coordinated" military airstrikes in Syria targeting the Syrian regime's chemical weapons arsenal, said Saturday it was not seeking a “confrontation” in the region.

In a statement, President Emmanuel Macron said the attack had been limited so far to Syria’s suspected chemical weapons facilities.

"We cannot tolerate the recurring use of chemical weapons, which is an immediate danger for the Syrian people and our collective security," he said.

"On April 7, dozens of men, women and children were massacred in Douma, with the use of a chemical weapon in a total violation of international rules.

"The red line set by France in May 2017 has been crossed. So, I ordered the French armed forces to intervene tonight, as part of an international operation in coalition with the United States of America and the United Kingdom and directed against the clandestine chemical arsenal of the Syrian regime."

He said that the facts and the responsibility of the Syrian regime were beyond doubt.

Macron said a debate about France’s military involvement would take place in parliament.

Speaking at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the country had "acted in accordance with our words, in accordance with our responsibility and in coordination with our allies."

"The regime of Assad deliberately decided to break the taboo of the 20th century, which is the use of chemical weapons," Le Drian said in a joint statement with Defense Minister Florence Parly. 

'No confrontation'

"[Assad] hasn't hesitated to break international law."

He added France had three imperatives going forward: The dismantling of the Syrian chemical weapons program, a cease-fire across Syria, and a crisis exit plan.

At 3 a.m. Paris time, French forces "in close coordination with US and British troops" conducted an operation in Syria, Parly said.

"On a practical level, this operation required air and naval means, multi-mission frigates accompanied by support ships were deployed in the Mediterranean Sea. At the same time an air raid left at night from multiple air bases in France," she said.

"These different means fired... cruise missiles at the chosen targets in close coordination with our British and American partners.

"We had ensured that the Russians were warned beforehand," Parly said, adding that France does "not seek confrontation, and we refuse any possibility of military escalation".

The three countries jointly launched strikes targeting the Assad regime's chemical weapons research center near Damascus, a chemical weapons warehouse and a command center related to chemical weapons located west of Homs, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford said earlier at a joint press conference with Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

The strikes are the second time U.S. President Donald Trump has ordered the U.S. military to target Syrian regime positions in response to a chemical attack. Last year, the U.S. targeted the Shayrat Airbase after a chemical attack blamed on the regime struck a town in northern Syria.

The White Helmets, a civil defense agency, blamed the Assad regime for the chemical attack, which it said killed 78 civilians and injured hundreds of others in the Syrian city of Douma in Eastern Ghouta.