Though France dispatched one of its most modern frigates the Chevalier Paul from the southern naval base of Toulon to the waters around Syria, President François Hollande, taking his cue from Barak Obama and David Cameron, scaled back some of his sabre-rattling rhetoric on Thursday.

The President who held talks with President of the Syrian National Coalition, Ahmed Jarba, said a political solution had to be found to the question. However, he added, “a political solution will become possible only if the Syrian coalition is able to present itself as an alternative especially with the force of its army. The international community has to put a halt to the escalation in violence.” The international community should give an “appropriate response” to the use of chemical weapons, he said.

He did not refer to any more military aid to the Syrian rebels but spoke of humanitarian assistance.

This toning down of the rhetoric is in sharp contrast to the words he used on Tuesday while addressing a gathering of French Aambassadors in Paris when he said France was “ready to punish those who took the infamous decision of gassing innocents”.

Parliament is to meet on 4 September to discuss the justification for and repercussions of eventual military action. However, the impression created on Tuesday that air strikes were imminent has now receded.

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