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France: Syria's Forces Behind Chemical Attack, Paris 'Will Not Shirk Its Responsibilities'

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France's president Francois Hollande speaks during a news conference, in Brdo, Slovenia, Thursday, July 25, 2013, at the end of a meeting of regional political leaders. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic) | AP

PARIS, Aug 27 (Reuters) - France "will not shirk its responsibilities" in response to a suspected chemical attack in Damascus by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a French diplomatic source said on Tuesday.

The source, speaking shortly before President Francois Hollande was due to address an ambassadors' conference in Paris on foreign policy, said that, in France's view, there was no doubt Syrian forces were behind last week's attack.

"The use of chemical weapons, which has been going on for several months now and has now been used for the first time massively, is unacceptable," the source said.

"France will not shirk its responsibilities," the source added.

U.S. and European officials say that a short, sharp attack, perhaps entirely with cruise missiles, could be the preferred response by a Western-led coalition to last week's attack, believed to have killed hundreds of civilians.

Hollande is one of Assad's firmest critics. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said last week that the international community would need to respond with force if allegations that Assad's forces were behind the chemical attack proved true.

French business magazine Challenges reported earlier on Tuesday that France's Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier was being sent to the eastern Mediterranean from its current berth in the southern French port of Toulon.

The Defence Ministry and spokespeople for the armed forces and navy all denied the report. (Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Catherine Bremer and Alison Williams)

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