France, UK co-ordinate response

PARIS – France will be in touch with Britain in the coming hours to co-ordinate a response to a nerve agent attack on a Russian spy, which London has blamed on Russia, after an earlier muted reaction to Britain’s allegations.

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday announced that Britain was expelling 23 Russian diplomats because it had received no explanation for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a Russian former double agent, and his daughter with a Soviet-made nerve toxin.

In contrast to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Donald Trump who assured Ms May they were taking her government’s views seriously, President Emmanuel Macron and other French officials have declined to point a finger directly at Russia.

French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said it was too early for Paris to decide whether action should be taken and a decisions would be made only once a case of Russian involvement was proven.

But Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian later expressed full confidence in the investigations being carried out by Britain, though he too was careful not to say directly that Russia was behind the attack.

“In the coming hours, France will be in contact at the highest level with the British authorities to coordinate our response,” Le Drian said.

Mr Le Drian said that not only was the security of one of France’s main allies at stake, but also that of France and Europe because a lethal nerve agent had been used despite international rules against chemical weapons proliferation.