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France

France may launch strikes in Syria 'in self defence': Fabius

media Damaged buildings are pictured during a sandstorm in the Douma neighbourhood of Damascus, Syria, 7 September 2015. Reuters/Bassam Khabieh

If France launches air strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria, it would take place “under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, in other words, in self-defence”, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Friday.

France marked a change in strategy over the Syrian conflict this week in announcing it may join Washington in carrying airstrikes on Islamic State jihadist positions in Syria.

France began surveillance flights over Syria on Tuesday and Wednesday as it prepares for possible attacks on Islamic State targets, the army said in a statement Friday.

France has been part of the US-led coalition bombing IS positions in Iraq for the past year, but has refused until now to extend its airstrikes to Syria so as not to support in any way, even indirectly, Syrian President Bachar al-Assad.

“As soon as it is established that on Syrian territory not entirely controlled by the Syrian government … Daesh forces are threatening French interests, both outside and inside France, it is perfectly legitimate that we defend ourselves,” said Fabius, using another name for the Islamic State armed group.

Britain used the same argument this week to defend the unprecedented RAF drone strike that killed two British jihadists in Raqqa on 21 August.

Britain and Australia have also announced that they would join airstrikes in Syria.

France's shift in strategy comes as political pressure mounts in Europe over a flood of refugees mostly from Syria, and amid recent planned armed attacks against the UK and France.

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