MANILA (AFP) - President Francois Hollande on Thursday condemned a group of French lawmakers for meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whom he branded a "dictator".
"I condemn this initiative. I condemn it because French lawmakers have taken it upon themselves to meet with a dictator who is the cause of one of the worst civil wars of recent years," Hollande told reporters in the Philippines.
A cross-party group of four French lawmakers made an unofficial trip to the Syrian capital Damascus on Wednesday and held talks with senior ministers.
Three of the MPs - not including one from the ruling Socialist party - then met with the Syrian leader.
Hollande condemned the talks, saying France cannot have a dialogue with a "dictator who has bombed his own people and who has used chemical weapons to destroy human lives, Syrian lives - the lives of children, women".
France cut diplomatic ties with Syria in 2012 and supports the moderate Syrian opposition, seeking the removal of Assad from power.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, the civil war in Syria has left more than 200,000 people dead.
"There are other ways to help Syria than to meet someone who is responsible for this devastation," Hollande said.