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France will seek Arab support on Thursday for a humanitarian corridor in Syria, the first time a major power has swung behind international intervention in the eight-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, who first floated the proposal for a humanitarian intervention on Wednesday, gave more details of the plan and said he would propose it to a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers gathering in Cairo to discuss Syria.
After months in which the international community has seemed determined to avoid any direct entanglement in one of the core countries of the Middle East, the diplomatic consensus seems to be changing.
The Arab League suspended Syria's membership two weeks ago, accusing Assad of failing to fulfill a November 2 pledge to halt the violence and withdraw troops from cities.
This week, the prime minister of regional heavyweight Turkey - a NATO member with the military wherewithal to mount a cross-border operation - compared Assad to Hitler, Mussolini and Gaddafi, and called on him to quit.
Juppe said international monitors should be sent to protect civilians, with or without Assad's permission. He insisted the proposal fell short of a military intervention, but acknowledged that humanitarian convoys would need armed protection.
"There are two possible ways: That the international community, Arab League and the United Nations can get the regime to allow these humanitarian corridors," he told French radio on Thursday. "But if that isn't the case we'd have to look at other solutions ... with international observers,"
Asked if humanitarian convoys would need military protection, he said: "Of course... by international observers, but there is no question of military intervention in Syria."