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France’s President Emmanuel Macron says he has ‘convinced’ Donald Trump to keep troops in Syria


French President Emmanuel Macron has said he has convinced Donald Trump to keep troops in Syria, as he defended the use of air strikes in the wake of an apparent chemical attack in Syria.

The US, France and Britain launched more than 100 missiles targeting a number of what they said werethree facilities linked to the chemical weapons programme, with Mr Macron saying that during the discussions President Trump was persuaded to drop the idea that Washington would be pulling out of Syria soon.

Ten days ago, President Trump was saying the United States should withdraw from Syria. We convinced him it was necessary to stay, Mr Macron said in an interview broadcast by BFM TV, RMC radio and Mediapart online news. We convinced him it was necessary to stay for the long term, he added.

Mr Trump had tweeted a number of messages laying out the fact he would strike back against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, with Washington and Paris saying they provethat Assad was behind the attack on the town of Douma on 7 April, with chlorine one of the chemicals used.

Mr Macron said limiting the strikes to three specific targets was not necessarily Mr Trumps initial plan, but that they were legitimate and needed.

We also persuaded him that we needed to limit the strikes to chemical weapons [sites], after things got a little carried away over tweets, he said.

We had reached a point where these strikes were necessary to give back the [international] community some credibility, he added.

France has been at the forefront of efforts to try tofind a solution to the crisis in Syria.Mr Macron said he had no plans to change next month’strip to Russia, which backs the Syrian governmentpolitically and militarily, in order to find a political solution, even though Moscowhad made itself complicit in Assads actions, he said.

Of course they are complicit. They have not used chlorine themselves but they have methodically built the international communitys inability to act through diplomatic channels to stop the use of chemical weapons, Mr Macron said.

Mr Macrons intervention comes as the US, UK and France push a draft resolution ahead of a meeting of the UNs Security Council on Monday, which includes a proposal for an independent investigation into alleged chemical weapons attacks that identifies those responsible.

Both the Syrian government and its ally Russia have denied involvement in the chemical attack.

On Saturday, the UN Security Council rejected a separate resolution tabled by Russia calling for condemnation of aggression by the US and its allies. Only three countries Russia, China and Bolivia voted in favour of the resolution at the end of an emergency meeting. Eight countries voted against and three abstained.

In terms of the wider Syrian civil war, French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned of a humanitarian disaster in the rebel-controlled Syrian city of Idlib.

There are fears that it may be the next target for the Syrian army to retake, with tens of thousands of government opposition fighters and civilians having fled to the northern Idlib region from parts of the country which the army has recaptured over the last couple of years.

Those in control of Idlib include both jihadi factions and nationalist rebels. The dominant force there is Hayat Tahrir al Sham, an Islamist alliance spearheaded by the former al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria.

Mr Le Drian said in an interview with French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche that Idlib now has some two million inhabitants, including hundreds of thousands of Syrians evacuated from rebel-held cities taken back by the Syrian regime.

There is a risk of a new humanitarian disaster. Idlibs fate must be settled by a political process, which includes disarming the militias, Mr Le Drian said.

Reuters contributed to this report



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