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Hollande: Assad is No Anti-terrorism Partner but a Jihadist Ally

Syria's Bashar Assad is not the West's partner in the fight against terrorism but an ally of Islamic extremists wreaking havoc in Syria and Iraq, French President Francois Hollande warned Thursday.

"Assad cannot be a partner in the fight against terrorism, he is the de facto ally of jihadists," he told a Paris gathering of ambassadors from around the world.

His comments came after Assad's regime said on Monday it was willing to work with the international community, including Washington, to tackle extremist fighters in the war-ravaged country.

Hollande also touched on other crises around the world, including Ukraine where Western intelligence believes Russian army units are operating as part of a four-month conflict that has seen more than 2,200 people lose their lives.

"If it turns out that there are Russian soldiers present on Ukrainian soil, it would be intolerable and unacceptable," he said.

And on Libya, which he said was his current "major concern", Hollande called on the United Nations to provide special support for authorities in the north African nation, which is sliding ever deeper into chaos as militias fuel an escalating war.

Over the past weeks different factions in the country have backed rival prime ministers and national assemblies, while Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have carried out air strikes against Islamists.

At the weekend, Islamist fighters seized Tripoli airport, compounding a crisis that has been boiling since the fall of long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. 

"France asks the United Nations... to organise exceptional support for Libyan authorities to restore their state," he said, without detailing what form this support should take.

"There is total confusion" in Libya, he warned.

"Jihadist groups have taken control of important sites and not only oil sites. There are two parliaments, two governments -- even if for us there is only one legitimate one -- and there are militias," he said.

"If we do nothing... terrorism will spread to all this region."

Source: Agence France Presse


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