Francois Hollande
© Agence France-PresseFrench President Francois Hollande
French President Francois Hollande has said the use of armed force could be possible in Syria if it is backed by the United Nations Security Council. Hollande was speaking to France 2 television on May 29 following the massacre of 108 people -- most of them children and women -- in the Syrian village of Houla last week.

"[An armed intervention] is not excluded on the condition that it is carried out with respect to international law, meaning after deliberation by the United Nations Security Council," Hollande said. In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the United States had not taken any options off the table, but believed armed action was not the right course at present.

"We do not believe that militarization -- further militarization -- of the situation in Syria at this point is the right course of action. We believe that it would lead to greater chaos, greater carnage," Carney said. Meanwhile, the United States, Canada, Australia, and a number of European countries, said they were expelling senior Syrian diplomats in response to the May 25 killings in Houla. The United Nations says most of the victims were executed. UN monitors said spent tank and artillery shells, as well as fresh tank tracks on the ground, were clear signs that Syrian government forces had shelled the town. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed concern that "certain countries" were beginning to use the Houla massacre as "a pretext for voicing demands relating to the need for military measures to be taken." Speaking to UN special envoy Kofi Annan by telephone, he urged an end to violence on all sides, and called for an "impartial" UN-led probe into the massacre. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland welcomed Lavrov's call.

"We are appreciative of the fact that the Russians are willing to have a full investigation because we think it's indisputable what the investigation is going to show," Nuland said.

"It's going to show that these were regime-sponsored thugs who went into villages, went into homes, and killed children at point-blank range and their parents." "So from that perspective, Nuland added, is this going to be a turning point in Russian thinking? We hope so." After talks with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, Annan said Syria was at a "tipping point." He said he had told Assad to "act now" to end the bloodshed, and urged what he called "other parties" involved in the conflict to play a part. State television quoted the Syrian president as blaming the violence on "terrorists." Violence continued on May 29, with opposition activists reporting some 50 people killed across the country.