France says 'ready to punish' Syria for alleged gas attack

PARIS (AFP) - President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday that France was "ready to punish" those behind last week's alleged deadly chemical attack in Syria, adding that the conflict threatens "world peace".

"France is ready to punish those who took the vile decision to gas innocent people," he said in a televised speech, pointing the finger of blame at President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Syria's opposition says more than 1,300 people died when toxic gases were unleashed last Wednesday as regime forces bombarded rebel zones east and south-west of Damascus.

But the Syrian regime has angrily denied being behind the alleged attack.

"Our responsibility today is to look for the most appropriate response to the exactions of the regime," Mr Hollande said, adding that the "chemical massacre in Damascus cannot be left without a response."

"This civil war today threatens world peace."

He said France would increase military support to the main opposition body and referred to a 2005 United Nations resolution on the "responsibility to protect civilians".

"I have decided to increase our military support to the Syrian National Coalition," he said without elaborating.

Tensions have ratcheted up dramatically in recent days as Washington has warned Syria's regime it will face action over the alleged chemical weapons strikes in Damascus.