France 'has agreed to act' with US on Syria

A French presidential official has said that France's president, Francois Hollande, has agreed to act with the US on Syria.

It comes after US President Barack Obama said this evening that he has decided that the United States should take military action against Syria in response to a deadly chemical weapons attack.

But he says he will seek congressional authorisation for the use of force.

The French official said that France will wait for the discussions in the US Congress and talks in the French parliament on Syria before making a decision on military intervention.

The official said President Hollande spoke with Mr Obama today and the two agreed to act together on Syria.

President Obama earlier said congressional leadership plans to hold a debate and a vote as soon as Congress comes back in September.

Mr Obama says he has the authority to act on his own, but believes it is important for the country to have a debate.

Military action would be in response to a chemical weapons attack the US says Syrian president Bashar Assad’s government carried out against civilians. The US says more than 1,400 Syrians were killed in that attack last week.

Delaying what had appeared to be an imminent strike with Navy ships in the Mediterranean Sea ready to strike, Mr Obama said he had decided the United States should take military action, but also determined ``our country will be better off'' if Congress renders its own opinion.

At the same time, he challenged politicians to consider “what message will we send to a dictator” if he is allowed to killed hundreds of children with chemical weapons without suffering any retaliation.

Politicians will return to session on September 9.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said the president's role as commander in chief is strengthened when he has the support of Congress.

Mr McConnell made the comment in a statement confirming President Barack Obama’s announcement that he had told congressional leaders he wanted to punish Syria for a chemical weapons attack but would first seek congressional approval.

Politicians had widely called for Mr Obama to include Congress in the decision under the War Powers Act.

Senior administration officials said Mr Obama planned to take military action against Syria without congressional authorisation, but told aides last night that he changed his mind.

The administration officials described a president overriding all his top national security advisers, who believed Mr Obama had the authority to act on his own.

But these officials say the president spent much of the week wrestling with Congress’ role in authorising force and made the decision last night after a lengthy discussion with his chief of staff, Denis McDonough.

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