Damascus, April 20 (IANS) Syria has returned to France the top Légion d’honneur presented to President Bashar al-Assad in 2001, saying he would not wear the award of a country that was a “slave” to the US.
The move came days after France said a “disciplinary procedure” for withdrawing the award was under way, the BBC reported.
France had joined the US and the UK in bombing Syrian targets in retaliation for an alleged chemical weapons attack on Douma, the last rebel-held town in the Eastern Ghouta region outside Damascus. More than 70 people were reportedly killed in the April 7 attack.
Former French President Jacques Chirac had decorated Assad with the highest class of the award, the grand-croix, after the latter took power following the death of his father.
“It is no honour for President Assad to wear a decoration attributed by a slave country and follower of the US that supports terrorists,” the Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The other recipients of the award included former dictators Benito Mussolini, Francisco Franco and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Tunisia’s ousted former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali received it in 1989 and Russian President Vladimir Putin got it in 2006.
So far, only one foreign leader, former Panamian President Manuel Norriega, has been stripped of the honour. Under French President Emmanuel Macron, Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was also stripped of the award after a series of accusations of sexual harassment and rape.