US plays down France's sarin claim
Chuck Hagel, the new US defence secretary, has played down France's "certain" view that Syria's regime has used chemical weapons, even as French President Francois Hollande said the world was obliged to act on its findings.
Mr Hagel gave the impression that France's blunt accusation about President Bashar al-Assad gassing his own people with sarin had yet to make any impression on US policy.
Referring to the French report, Mr Hagel said: "I have not seen that evidence that they said that they had – and I have not talked to any of our intelligence people about it."
His words at a meeting of Nato defence ministers in Brussels exposed a widening gap between the US and France over how to respond to Syria's civil war.
On Tuesday, Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, said: "France is now certain that sarin gas has been used in Syria several times and in a localised manner."
Last night, Mr Hollande said: "We have provided the elements of proof that now oblige the international community to act."
Unlike the US, Britain has come close to endorsing the French claims.
Samples taken from inside Syria have tested positive for sarin gas at Porton Down in the UK.
However, the British Foreign Secretary William Hague stopped short of echoing France's certainty. (© Daily Telegraph, London)