Two French journalists evacuated from Syria’s battered city Homs arrived Friday at a military airport near Paris after escaping the besieged protest hub where two of their colleagues were killed.
A plane transporting wounded reporter Edith Bouvier, 31, and photographer William Daniels, 34, arrived at Villacoublay airport from Beirut where they were met by relatives and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Sarkozy, who announced Friday that Paris would close its embassy in Syria to denounce President Bashar al-Assad's “scandalous” repression, paid homage to the journalists on their arrival.
He said that Syrian authorities will “be called to account for their crimes before international criminal jurisdictions.”
“The crime that they committed, the crimes that they have committed, will not go unpunished,” Sarkozy said, also praising a “chivalrous” Daniels for staying with Bouvier in Homs during days of heavy regime bombardment.
An ambulance was parked on the tarmac to take Bouvier to a military hospital for treatment for a broken leg suffered during the deadly bombardment of an improvised media center in Homs on Feb. 22.
France announced it was ready to step up support of the rebels if the U.N. Security Council cleared the way for such a move. “Dictators will all, one day, have to pay for their actions,” Sarkozy said.
Bouvier, whose femur was shattered during heavy shelling of Homs’ Baba Amro district, and Daniels were brought across the border into Lebanon by Syrian rebels on Thursday, ending several days of uncertainty over their fate.
Their plight had mesmerized France following the death of a French photographer Remi Ochlik last week during the bombardment of Homs, alongside American journalist Marie Colvin.
Paris prosecutors on Friday opened a preliminary murder probe into the attack on the media center in Homs.
A judicial source said that one of the inquiry’s first objectives would be to gather data that would allow the formal identification of Ochlik’s body so that it could be returned to France.
Days are numbered for Assad
Meanwhile, Obama said in an interview published Friday that President Assad’s “days are numbered,” adding Washington was working to accelerate the transition to democracy there.
In the interview with the Atlantic Monthly, Obama said “it is our estimation that (Assad’s) days are numbered. It’s a matter not of if but when.”
“Now, can we accelerate that? We’re working with the world community to try to do that,” he said.
Obama acknowledged that Syria is bigger, more sophisticated and more complicated than Libya, and that countries like Russia are blocking U.N. action, according to AFP.
However, he pointed to U.S. efforts through the “Friends of the Syrian People” group to promote humanitarian relief to cities under attack from Syrian forces.
“But they can also accelerate a transition to a peaceful and stable and representative Syrian government,” he said. “If that happens, that will be a profound loss for Iran.”