Paris warns Syria not to attack opponents in France
France warned Bashar al-Assad's Syrian regime on Tuesday against using its agents to incite violence abroad, after a group of pro-democracy Syrian exiles was attacked and threatened in Paris.
A French foreign ministry spokesman said an investigation had been launched and extra police protection assigned to Syrian opposition protests in the wake of an August 26 incident in which anti-regime activists were assaulted.
"We would not tolerate a foreign state organising acts of violence or intimidation on our territory, and we have made this known in the clearest possible terms to Syria's ambassador in Paris," Bernard Valero said.
"The right to protest freely and peacefully in safety is fully guaranteed by the French constitution, and it is also obvious that France supports the Syrian people's hopes for freedom," he said.
"An inquiry is underway, and we hope that it will come quickly to an conclusion," he added.
According to the French daily Le Monde, a small group of Syrian protesters that gathers regularly in a square in central Paris has been insulted, filmed and on at least one occasion violently attacked by thugs.
Valero confirmed that there there had been arrests after one such incident on August 26, but denied a report in the Le Monde that suggested that two of the suspects were carrying Syrian diplomatic papers.
Earlier, rights watchdog Amnesty International said it had documented cases of attacks and intimidation against 30 activists in eight countries: Britain, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and the United States.
It urged countries hosting Syrian exiles, like France, which has become a hub of opposition activity, to "take stronger action against Syrian embassies accused of orchestrating this kind of harassment and intimidation."
© 2011 AFP