After Paris attacks, Hollande urges grand coalition in Syria




French President Francois Hollande appealed on Monday for a single coalition including the United States and Russia to eradicate Islamic State militants in Syria after bloody attacks on Paris.

In a solemn address to a joint session of parliament in the Palace of Versailles that began with the words "France is at war", Hollande announced an increase in police recruitment, a halt to layoffs in the army, and a constitutional amendment to strengthen the fight against terrorism.

The attacks by gunmen and suicide bombers at restaurants, bars, a soccer stadium and a music hall that killed 129 people and wounded more than 350 people were ordered from Syria, planned in Belgium and carried out with the help of French people, he said.

After Paris attacks, Hollande urges grand coalition in Syria

Hollande said he would meet U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in the coming days "so we can unite our forces to achieve a result that has taken too long".

While Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could not be part of the solution to the crisis, "our enemy is Daesh (Islamic State)", Hollande said, while insisting that France was fighting terrorism and not another civilization. 

"We will eradicate terrorism," he declared at the end of a 50-minute speech. Lawmakers from all parties gave him a standing ovation and sang the "Marseillaise" national anthem.

The Socialist president said he had ordered air strikes on headquarters of Islamic State in the Syrian town of Raqqa overnight and would continue to wage war "mercilessly", sending an aircraft carrier to triple French air power in the region.

He also said France wanted more effective controls of the European Union's external borders to avoid a return to national border controls and the dismantling of the European Union.

Additional security spending would be needed and France would not let EU budget rules to get in the way, Hollande said.

He involved a mutual defense clause in the EU's Lisbon treaty, which requires member states to give each other assistance if they come under attack, but made no mention of the U.S.-led NATO military alliance's mutual defense clause. 

He said security forces had put more than 100 people under house arrest and raided 168 premises since he declared a state of emergency, which he asked parliament to extend for three months.

He also proposed measures to speed up the expulsion of foreigners considered a threat to public order, strip binational citizens who carry out acts hostile to national security of French citizenship, and bar binationals considered a terrorism risk from entering French territory.

It was the first time in more than six years that a president had addressed both houses of parliament convened in a so-called Congress at Versailles, a procedure reserved for constitutional revisions and major presidential speeches.

Former conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy last addressed the Congress at the former royal palace in 2009, at the height of the global financial and banking crisis.

The Congress took place in the spectacular Southern Wing of the former royal palace built by Louis XIV, in an ornate chamber decorated with allegorical paintings evoking war and peace.
(Additional reporting by Ingrid Melander and Michel Rose; Writing by Paul Taylor; Editing by Tom Heneghan) 

This article originally appeared in : After Paris attacks, Hollande urges grand coalition in Syria | Reuters | By Emile Picy | November 17, 2015




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