The world must act to halt the violence in Syria, French President Francois Hollande said Thursday, amid mounting Western efforts for military action after an alleged chemical arms attack on a Damascus suburb.
Hollande, speaking after a meeting with the head of Syria's main opposition group Ahmad al-Jarba, urged powers to "stop the escalating violence" in Syria.
"All efforts must be made for a political solution but this will only come if the coalition (opposition) is capable of forming an alternative and if the international community is capable of stopping the escalating violence of which the chemical weapons attack is just an illustration," he said.
Hollande repeated that France would give "all its aid, all its political backing and also humanitarian and medical aid" to the opposition but did not mention or elaborate on an increase in military help to the Syrian National Coalition, which he had evoked earlier this week.
Jarba referred to the alleged chemical weapons attack of August 21 which the opposition says claimed hundreds of lives, saying: "This crime must not go unpunished.
He vowed to "punish" Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his "killing machine".
Jarba, in an interview to French newspaper Le Parisien published Thursday, said the West must get rid of Assad and bring him to trial at the International Criminal Court.
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"May he be attacked and may his regime disappear," said Jarba, branding Assad "an infection, a microbe for the region".
"This man and his family must be brought to justice in The Hague by the International Criminal Court," he said, adding that the opposition wanted Western countries to carry out a "punishing strike against the regime."
France has, with the United States and Britain, been spearheading calls for military action against Assad's regime over the alleged chemical attacks.
Earlier a French government spokeswoman said that coordinating an agreed response to the attacks was "difficult."
it was "necessary to obtain the adhesion of several allies and partners at the heart of the UN Security Council, which we are trying to do," said Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, adding that "states like Russia and China pose a certain number of problems."
The aim of military action "will not simply be to punish the Syrian regime and prevent it from carrying out a new attack of this type ... but also to seek a way out of this crisis."
"It's extremely important for the international community if it intervenes to do so in a manner that the country can recover."