UK & World News
Syria Writes To French MPs Debating Action
The Syrian parliament has urged its French counterparts not to support military action in two letters obtained by Sky News.
The letters addressed to the President of the French Senate and the President of the National Assembly warn of the "irreversible consequences" of war and invites delegates to travel to Damascus to judge the situation for themselves.
"We write to you with great emphasis, whilst you are in the process of considering a military attack against Syria," said the letter to the National Assembly, signed by Mohammad Jihad al Lahham, the speaker of Syria's parliament.
"We write to you as parliamentary colleagues, and as representatives of our people; but most importantly we write to you as fathers, mothers and family members, in a society no different to yours: we write to you as human beings and we ask you 'if you bomb us, will we bleed'?"
"Despite our shared humanity, we are divided between our separate doubts. Similar doubts have, in the past been the spark behind terrible conflicts, especially as we approach the 100th anniversary since the start of the First World War in 1914.
"We urge you to contact us by means of civil dialogue, and not a dialogue of blood and fire."
The letter to the French Senate President urged the country's politicians not to "plunge our two secular nations into a war" which it said would destabilise not only the region but the rest of the world.
Similar letters were sent to British MPs ahead of the House of Commons vote on taking action to punish Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons in an attack in Damascus.
There are no plans for politicians to vote after the two debates in France, but many of them are expected to call for a ballot.
Like Washington, Paris has been building a case for intervention and of all the Western leaders French President Francois Hollande has appeared the most committed to punishing President Bashar al Assad over the alleged attack, which Mr Hollande said killed more than 200 people.
However, he has promised he will not go it alone if the US Congress opposes an armed offensive.
At a news conference after a meeting with German President Joachim Gauck, Mr Hollande said: "Europe must unite on this dossier and it will, each with its own responsibility.
"France will accept its role," he added. "There will be a meeting of foreign ministers soon."
But as France's full political spectrum gathers to question whether intervention is the right course of action, it will be argued that if French MPs do not get to vote, the US congress will effectively decide for them.
Political commentator Agnes Poirier told Sky News: "Hollande is in a difficult position, Cameron set off a chain reaction when he gave parliament the vote.
"President Obama has now gone to Congress and French politicians are saying why can't we vote on this too."
White House administration officials have been working to convince Congressmen of the need for intervention with Mr Obama meeting officials and US Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel giving evidence to a Senate committee.
The French president said his determination to act was reinforced after reading an interview Mr Assad gave to French newspaper Le Figaro in which he denied that his forces had used chemical weapons and threatened "negative repercussions" against France if it intervened.
"On reading this, I became even more determined," Mr Hollande said.
"Those who had doubts about Bashar al Assad's intentions can no longer be in doubt. He speaks of 'liquidating' all those who do not agree with him."
Back in 2003 France had strongly criticised American intervention in Iraq and when it came to Libya France insisted on UN backing.
Now they are becoming a lone voice of support in Europe - even though recent polls show 64% of the population oppose involvement.
In Cafe Madeleine in central Paris there were mixed views. Two people used the same analogy to argue opposing opinions.
Waiter Sasha Kristc said: "If your next door neighbours are having a row you don't go knocking on the door, it's not your business."
But one of his clientele, Faycal El Darwiche, who runs a business between Paris and Lebanon, said: "If your next door neighbour is abusing his children, it's your responsibility to intervene."