France's Hollande too passive on Syria – Bernard-Henri Levy (Reuters, le 3 août 2012)

bhl reutersPARIS | Fri Aug 3, 2012 11:36am BST
(Reuters) – Bernard-Henri Levy, a celebrity intellectual and early champion of foreign intervention in Libya, slammed President Francois Hollande’s policy on Syria as too passive on Friday and said the French leader should work outside the U.N. Security Council.

Hollande had failed to live up to election campaign promises of toughening efforts to « chase » Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power, Levy told le Parisien daily in an interview.

« Of course I am disappointed by Hollande. I voted for him, » Levy said. « Facing what might be the biggest historical, political and moral test of his mandate, this inertia, this flurry of words is not acceptable. »

The conflict in Syria is now in its 17th month, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is quitting as international peace envoy and battles rage in Syria’s second city, Aleppo, between rebel fighters and government forces using war planes and artillery.

Levy, a writer and philosopher known as much for his immaculate white shirts and bouffant hair as his strong opinions, took on the role of amateur diplomat in early 2011 when he claims to have convinced former President Nicolas Sarkozy it was in France’s interest to recognise Libya’s rebels.

Days after Levy called Sarkozy during a trip to the rebel-held Libyan city of Bengazhi, the French president sought a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning former dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s government.

When Russia and China blocked any intervention he formed a coalition with Britain and the Arab League and sent French warplanes to bomb Gaddafi’s troops outside Benghazi.

Levy, a leftist who said at the time he would not back Sarkozy’s re-election bid, told Le Parisien the same approach should be applied to overcome U.N. inertia on Syria.

« The attack plans are ready, » he said. « Everyone knows it will not take much to deal the regime a death blow. All we need is a pilot. »

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said this week that France will soon outline plans for a new push by the Security Council to solve the impasse, as Paris takes over the body’s month-long rotating chair for August.

Asked about Fabius’ initiative, Levy said: « Let’s wait, and hope. »

(Reporting by Nicholas Vinocur; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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