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White House rebuffs Macron claim, says Trump still wants U.S. forces in Syria to come home as soon as possible

AFP-JIJI, AP

American objectives in Syria have not altered, the White House said Sunday, reiterating that President Donald Trump wants US troops home “as quickly as possible.”

“The U.S. mission has not changed — the President has been clear that he wants US forces to come home as quickly as possible,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

“We are determined to completely crush ISIS and create the conditions that will prevent its return. In addition we expect our regional allies and partners to take greater responsibility both militarily and financially for securing the region,” she added.

The statement came hours after French President Emmanuel Macron asserted that Paris had convinced Trump to stay engaged in Syria “for the long-term.”

“Ten days ago, President Trump was saying the United States of America had a duty to disengage from Syria,” Macron said during a two-hour grilling on French television, broadcast days after his government joined the U.S. and Britain in launching strikes against alleged Syrian regime chemical weapons facilities.

The three allies joined forces for the missile strikes a week after a deadly attack on the town of Douma where civilians were hit with chlorine and sarin, according to the Western powers.

“I assure you, we have convinced him that it is necessary to stay for the long-term,” Macron told veteran journalists Jean-Jacques Bourdin and Edwy Plenel.

Appearing in a two-hour live broadcast on French television BFM and online investigative site Mediapart, the 40-year-old leader said the U.S., Britain and France had “full international legitimacy to intervene” in order to enforce international humanitarian law.

“It was retaliation, not an act of war,” Macron said in justifying the operation a day before the French parliament was set to debate it. The airstrikes marked Macron’s biggest foreign policy yet. Nearly a year into his term, the new president declared France the most active country on the diplomatic field and at the United Nations.

He said France now wants to involve Western powers, Russia and Turkey in a new diplomatic initiative to find a sustainable political solution in Syria.

Macron also offered to play the role of intermediary between the United States and Russia.