Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seemed calm and was surrounded by only light security when he talked to a French journalist this week.
"By showing himself without any obvious signs of protection, the Syrian President wanted to demonstrate that he is not hiding in a bunker," said George Malbrunot of Le Figaro yesterday. "Security around the house was minimal. I was not searched. He showed no obvious signs of anxiety but he seemed very troubled by his stand-off with Barack Obama."
Assad warned France of "negative repercussions on its interests" if it joined the US in an air attack on Syria.
President Francois Hollande accused Assad of telling "lies" and of threatening "the people of France".
"Reading the interview only increased my determination," Hollande said. "The most serious threat would be to do nothing, to let him continue to use chemical weapons."
However, Hollande now accepts that the "No" vote in the House of Commons last week and Obama's decision to consult Congress have left him in an impossible position. There is no question of France acting alone if Congress rejects air strikes.