French President François Hollande cancelled an airstrike against Syrian targets scheduled for Aug. 31 at the last minute following a phone call from U.S. President Barack Obama, the French weekly magazine Le Nouvel Observateur reported on Sunday.
According to the report, Hollande was "shocked" when Obama informed him that he intends to seek Congress' approval for the strike and requested he cancel the military campaign only a few hours before French jets were set to take off. The mission was allegedly planned by the French and U.S. presidents immediately following the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack on rebel-held suburbs east of Damascus, the magazine reported.
According to the report, the French government had already prepared a statement announcing the French strike in Syria, something that French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius had apparently been told to do by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, as per a French official's statement. "Everything led us to believe that the big day had arrived," a French official told the magazine.
The French newspaper further reported that with the opening of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, France may have missed its ideal window of opportunity for military action in Syria.
Meanwhile, United Nations inspectors are set to meet Tuesday with representatives from the Syrian foreign ministry to coordinate the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met for the first time with the leadership of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces on Saturday in an a attempt to organize a peace conference on the Syrian conflict for November, as a follow up to last year's Geneva peace conference.
Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview with an Italian TV station that there is "no reason" that Syria will not adhere to the Security Council decision to destroy its chemical weapons. He added that his country is committed to providing security to the U.N. inspectors who will arrive in Syria on Tuesday to begin inspecting the facilities used to store chemical weapons.