France Will Not Act Alone Against Syria, Prime Minister Says

In France, a tax-free property empire

Following the British parliament’s August 29 vote to reject any British use of force against Syria, which the United States accuses of gassing its own people with sarin, France has made no secret of its desire to play Washington’s supporting partner. Speaking in French for eight minutes beneath the gold-painted cherubs of one of the Quai d’Orsay’s elegant salons, Kerry traced the history of U.S.-French relations beginning from the American Revolution, while glossing over their many tiffs. “When he visited General de Gaulle in Paris more than 50 years ago, President Kennedy said, and I quote, ‘The relationship between France and the United States is crucially important for the preservation of liberty in the whole world,'” Kerry said. “Today, faced with the brutal chemical weapons attacks in Syria, that relationship evoked by President Kennedy is more crucial than ever,” he added. Not to be outdone, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius broke a taboo by speaking in English at a news conference in the Foreign Ministry’s elegant building on the banks of the Seine, where he once chided a reporter, “Here, sir, we speak French.” While Kerry’s performance might be seen as flattering a French government that is one of the few to back U.S. President Barack Obama’s call for air strikes to deter Syria from using chemical arms, it may help convince a skeptical French public. An IFOP poll published on Saturday showed 68 percent of French were against an intervention in Syria. France took no part in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, which it strongly opposed, but joined the United States, Britain and others in a military intervention that helped oust Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. POLITICAL LIABILITY, DIPLOMATIC ASSET Kerry, who learned French as a boy, found his fluency a liability during his 2004 U.S. presidential campaign, feeding an image of the Democrat as a wealthy elitist that his Republican opponent, then-President George W. Bush, exploited. As a diplomat, however, it is an asset, allowing him to speak directly to the French about their unhappy history with chemical warfare during World War One as one reason why the French government is sensitive to its alleged use in Syria.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) arrives for a meeting with French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius (2nd L) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris September 7, 2013. REUTERS/Susan Walsh/Pool

Allies of French President Francois Hollande accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of repeatedly using chemical weapons against his citizens and said that if the world did not respond with force, he would do so again. But opposition leaders said France would be in contravention of international law if it acted against Syria without U.N. authorization an unlikely development in any case because of Russias veto power in the Security Council and its implacable opposition to any move against its longtime Syrian ally. We are certain that Syria has at its disposal the most important stockpile of chemical weapons in the world, Ayrault told Frances lower house of Parliament. Not to respond to an alleged Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack, he said, would be to send a terrible message to Bashar al-Assad and to the Syrian people: that you can use chemical weapons tomorrow. But many opinion polls in recent days show a lack of public support here for a strike against Syria. Under the French constitution, Hollande has broad powers to order military action without consulting Parliament or submitting to a vote. Still, many opposition leaders said Wednesday that they want, at a minimum, to vote on such a decision, a course of action that had 74percent support in a CSA opinion poll released Tuesday. Leaders of the main center-right opposition Union for a Popular Movement party (UMP) went further during Wednesdays debate, saying that France would be breaking its long-held commitment to acting in accordance with the United Nations if it proceeded without a Security Council vote and that it was humiliating for France to stand alone as it waited for allies to assemble around it. France should not be in the position of waiting with its arms crossed for a vote of the U.S. Congress, said Christian Jacob, president of the UMP faction in the lower house. The United States is used to going alone and not going along with the U.N., he said, but he noted that France is different.

Spain, Britain, France win at Euro championship

Keeping up with the British was, say former French trade officials and policy analysts, one reason to agree the treaty in the first place. In 2008, oil producers were riding a boom in commodities just as centers like London, New York and Paris took a hit from the financial crisis. Many Western capitals were keen to capture investment: Paris was promoting Islamic finance, and saw the deal as a way to spur growth. “What this treaty does is effectively put Paris on a level playing field with London – just not for everyone,” said John Forbes, a London-based real-estate consultant. Aside from the United Kingdom, only Ireland has offered Qatar the same exemption and that only since 2012, a review of more than a dozen of the emirate’s bilateral tax treaties shows. At home, Qataris face no personal income taxes but some businesses could be taxable at up to 10 percent on gains from the sale of property. “The exemptions … are on the generous side, even by the standards of other French treaties,” said Charles Beer, managing director at consultancy Alvarez & Marsal. “This level of treaty exemption is rare, if not unknown, in other countries’ treaties.” CHINESE EXCLUDED Just a stone’s throw from the Champs-Elysees, the magnificent Peninsula Hotel shows how the treaty – which was an update of a pact dating back to 1990 – favors Qatari investors. Promising a “new level of distinction” for the Paris luxury hotel market, for the time being the hotel is hidden behind scaffolding and a corrugated-iron fence. It’s due to open in 2014 after a six-year renovation project. It was originally a business center owned by the French state, which collected 460 million euros when it sold it to a Qatari bank in 2007. The property was later transferred to a Qatari sovereign wealth fund focused on hotels. After the initial sale, the valuation rose.

Finland trailed in both regulation and the first overtime. The defeat means an early exit for Russia, the bronze medalist at the London Olympics last year and at the Europeans two years ago. The Russians were without Andrei Kirilenko and several other stars. Italy stayed perfect after four games with a 81-72 victory over previously unbeaten Greece, with Marco Belinelli scoring 23 points. Both teams joined Finland in advancing from that group. In Jesenice, Serbia beat Latvia 80-71 behind 25 points from center Nenad Krstic to advance. In the late games, Lithuania defeated Montenegro 77-70 in overtime in Jesenice and Croatia defeated Slovenia 76-74 in overtime. Turkey downed Sweden 87-74 in a match between two eliminated teams in Koper, while Israel stopped Belgium 87-69 for its first victory in Ljubljana. Ukraine stayed with France until the fourth quarter, when Parker took over. He connected with two jumpers and then sank a 3-pointer to help the French pull away. Parker scored 13 of his team’s last 17 points. France was runner-up two years ago. “We kept fighting and in the fourth quarter we found the solutions,” Parker said after his 50th game in a European championship. “I try to lead the team and to help the young players.