PARIS, Oct 23 (KUNA) -- The death toll in Syria since March 2011 and the
start of the anti-government demonstrations has reached "close to 35,000,"
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said here Tuesday.
Speaking at a press conference, the Foreign Minister said that France was
continuing "a three-fold" approach to the Syrian crisis, comprising a
diplomatic track, a humanitarian track and on-going efforts to unite the
disparate Syrian opposition.
Reiterating that "Assad must leave," Fabius warned that there must be some
structures to replace the current regime.
He maintained that the formation of a provisional Syrian government of
opposition figures was still on the agenda, but said it was up to the Syrians
to work this out.
At the same time, Fabius said that it had been agreed in the Geneva talks
several months ago that a "transitional government" in Syria would be composed
of all parties and its make-up would be through "consensus" and without Assad.
He intimated that Russia had changed its interpretation of the Geneva
accords and had gone back to supporting the continuation of Assad in a future
government in Syria.
Yet he denied claims attributed to the Syrian National Council that it was
"premature" for the opposition to form a provisional authority, which France
says it will immediately recognise. These claims were misreported, he said.
In reference to the latest tensions in Lebanon, Fabius warned that this
country should avoid "contagion" from the Syrian conflict.
He said that the assassination last Friday of Lebanese Intelligence Chief
Wissam Al-Hassan required "an enquiry to go to the source of the perpetrators
and those who ordered" the killing.
"All of this is part of the extension of the Syrian crisis," the minister
Fabius had earlier said he believed Bashar Al-Assad was "probably" behind
He said he had been in contact with various officials from the different
communities in Lebanon these past days to tell them that "our position, as
French, was that contagion from the Syrian conflict must be avoided to the
maximum, and Lebanon must maintain to the maximum its cohesiveness."
Fabius indicated also that French troops serving with the United Nations
Interim Force (UNIFIL) in south Lebanon had been told to beef-up their
security "in this context."
Speaking on Iran, Fabius said that "Iran takes up our constant attention in
order to avoid the grave danger this country possessing a nuclear weapon would
He said the "dual strategy" of negotiations and sanctions was continuing
and "sanctions are having their effect."
He noted in particular French efforts in the European Union to bring about
more sanctions against Iran, a decision taken in Luxembourg last week by the
EU Foreign Ministers.
Meanwhile, Fabius said that the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a
key source of problems.
"We are not forgetting, obviously, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
remains at the heart of the problems in the region and its solution must
absolutely move forward," France's chief diplomat said.
He indicated that he had a busy travel schedule ahead of him in the next
months and would visit a large number of countries. Among Arab nations he
plans to visit for various reasons, including conferences, are Egypt, Libya,
Qatar, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia.
He said France was a "country of influence" in a "splintered and dangerous
world" and would continue to exercise its responsibilities worldwide. (End)
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