Paris • France wants the U.N. Security Council to consider allowing military action in Syria if an international peace plan fails to stop the violence under Bashar Assad's regime, the French foreign minister said Wednesday.
Alain Juppe's comments signaled that Paris is increasingly lining up behind a U.S. position laid out by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last week. But the prospect of the Security Council backing military action in Syria is remote because veto-wielding members Russia and China are unlikely to go along.
The Syrian government's crackdown on a popular uprising is estimated to have killed more than 9,000 people over the past 13 months.
The French foreign minister demanded that 300 U.N. observers authorized to go to Syria be deployed within 15 days and said France has all but set a May 5 deadline for Damascus to comply with special envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan.
"We think this mediation should be given a chance, on the condition that the deployment of the observer mission happens quickly," Juppe said after a meeting with Syrian dissidents at his ministry. The plan isn't dead, he said, but "it is severely compromised"
Annan's scheduled May 5 report on the state of a cease-fire called for under his six-point peace plan will be "a moment of truth: Either this mediation is working, or it isn't," Juppe said.
"We cannot allow ourselves to be defied by the current regime," he added, insisting that Assad's government has not held to the Annan plan.
Juppe said France has been discussing with other world powers the prospect of invoking Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, which allows for action that could be militarily enforceable.
During Paris talks last week by key members of the so-called "Friends of Syria" group, Clinton also mentioned a Chapter 7 resolution despite concern that it would be vetoed by Russia and China. Russia, in particular, has largely defended its longtime ally Syria against the threat of U.N. sanctions.