France has warned it could seek military action against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad if his security forces continue to ignore a United Nations-mandated peace plan.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe proposed that his country could push for Security Council action under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter; a move that would almost certainly be vetoed by permanent council members Russia and China.
The call brings France in line with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who, during a Friends of Syria meeting of world powers in Paris last week, also discussed invoking Charter 7.
We think this mediation should be given a chance, on the condition that the deployment of the observer mission happens quickly, Juppe said after a meeting with Syrian dissidents at his ministry, according to the Associated Press.
The plan isn't dead, he added, but it is severely compromised.
Juppe also demanded that the 300 U.N. observers scheduled to arrive in Damascus arrive within 15 days, and insisted on a May 5th deadline for Assad to comply with special envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan.
Elsewhere, Annan's spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said Wednesday that the presence of United Nations teams in Syria may be making the violence worse.
Fawzi said the small advance team of UN monitors was unable to stop the bloodshed between opposition forces and government troops.
They are entering areas where there has been conflict like Homs and Hama and when they go [there] the guns are silent, Fawzi told U.N. Television in Geneva, referring to the monitors, according to Reuters.
When they leave, the exchanges start again.
We have credible reports that ... these people who approach the observers may be approached by security forces or Syrian army and harassed or arrested or even worse, perhaps killed.
In Syria, regime forces shot dead four civilians on a bus Wednesday and fighting raged near Damascus, dissidents told Reuters.
In Hama, an anti-Assad hotbed, an explosion ripped through a building, killing at least 12 people and wounding dozens more, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Another activist group, the grassroots Local Coordination Committee, said the blast was caused by a rocket launched into the building and put the death toll much higher at 54, including several children.
A third activist source said the explosion may have come from inside the building. It was not immediately possible to reconcile the varying accounts.
There was no comment from the government, which says it is committed to Annan's April 12 ceasefire accord, but reserves the right to respond to what it says are continued attacks by terrorist groups.