France rules out Assad as partner in terror fight

By the Associated Press | August 28, 2014 | 4:05 PM EDT

French President Francois Hollande delivers his speech to French Ambassadors at the Elysee Palace, Thursday, Aug. 28. 2014. The French leader who once decried global finance and vowed a 75-percent tax on millionaires has quashed dissent from his Socialist government's left flank and appointed a well-heeled former investment banker as his new point man on the economy. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, Pool)

PARIS (AP) — French President Francois Hollande on Thursday ruled out an international partnership with Syria's leader to fight against the Islamic State group, saying any alliance with Bashar Assad would play into the militants' hands.

In a wide-ranging speech to international ambassadors, Hollande said France would call an international conference to address the threat of IS militants and said a broad alliance was needed.

He said: "But I want to make sure things are clear: Bashar Assad cannot be a partner in the fight against terrorism. He is a known ally of the jihadists. You cannot choose between two barbarities, because they feed on each other."

Hollande also said he views Libya as the next crucial front for terrorism, and called on the United Nations to assemble "exceptional support for Libyan authorities to restore their state," without elaborating. France is a permanent, veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council.

Despite many subjects of concern in the world today, Hollande said, Libya was his "major preoccupation."

The country is facing "total confusion," he said, adding there is "a formation of terrorist groups that is waiting to intervene" in the south.

"If we do nothing ... terrorism will spread in the whole region," Hollande said.

France, along with NATO partners Britain and the United States, led an allied air assault that helped Libyan rebels topple longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi as the so-called Arab Spring revolutions erupted in 2011.