Juppe Says Paris FMs Meeting to Send 'Strong' Message to Assad

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France said Wednesday that 14 foreign ministers would attend a meeting on Syria in Paris on Thursday to send a "strong" message to Bashar al-Assad's regime to implement a peace plan.

"The obstacles to the U.N. observers' mission that Damascus is putting in place and the Syrian regime's continued repression, contrary to its commitments, calls for a strong reaction from the international community," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said in a statement.

Juppe said the foreign ministers of the United States, Germany, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar and Saudi Arabia would be among those taking part. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton previously confirmed she would attend.

Juppe said the ministers would send Damascus "a message of firmness and support for Kofi Annan," the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy pushing the peace plan in Syria.

Asked if Russia would attend, foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said the meeting "is not a substitute to the work of the (U.N.) Security Council" so not all council members had been invited.

A government source said Tuesday that Juppe was hoping to gather the ministers, some of whom were to be in the region already for NATO talks in nearby Brussels, in a bid to "maintain pressure" on Assad.

Juppe met more junior officials this week from 50 of the countries that have imposed sanctions on Assad's regime in a bid to stop the violent repression of a year-old popular revolt that has left more than 11,000 dead.

After talks in Paris, the countries expressed "strong disapproval of any financial or other support, in particular the continuation of arms sales to the Syrian regime", in a clear reference to Russia.

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