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French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault speaks to the media Michel Euler/AP/Press Association Images

Only regime could have carried out chemical attack, French intel report states

Intelligence officials say the 21 August attack “could only have been ordered and carried out by the regime”.

A FRENCH INTELLIGENCE report released today says there was “massive use of chemical agents” in an August 21 attack in Syria and that only the regime could have been responsible.

The report, made public after Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault met with lawmakers, said the “Syrian regime launched an attack on some suburbs of Damascus held by units of the opposition, combining conventional means with the massive use of chemical agents”.

It said that based on video reports, French intelligence had counted at least 281 dead but that reports of up to 1,500 killed were consistent with such heavy use of chemical weapons.

“The attack on August 21 could only have been ordered and carried out by the regime,” the report said.

“We believe the Syrian opposition does not have the capacity to carry out an operation of such magnitude with chemical agents,” it said.

A government source said separately that intelligence officials had concluded that rockets used in the attack were fired from regime-controlled areas.

“Imagery shows that the launch zone for the rockets was held by the regime while the strike zone was held by the rebels,” the source said.

imagePresident Barack Obama makes a statement on Syria at the White House in Washington on Saturday (Evan Vucci/AP/Press Association Images)

Meanwhile, Ayrault has confirmed that there will be no vote during Wednesday’s planned parliamentary debate on the Syria crisis; President Francois Hollande has been under pressure to seek the approval of parliament before launching any military strike against the regime, after US President Barack Obama announced he would be seeking the backing of Congress.

Obama called Hollande before announcing his decision on Saturday, with French Government officials stating afterwards that both men were “determined to act”.

The Prime Minister  said this evening that Hollande was “continuing efforts to forge a coalition as soon as possible” to punish the Syrian regime for the attack.

But he added that “there is no question that France will act on its own”.

Read: Obama asks Congress to authorise military action on Syria >

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