The US military is ready to strike Syria, the top defence official said Tuesday as the momentum grew in France and Britain for strong, punitive action and the Syrian opposition said it was informed of an imminent military attack, dpa reported.
"We are prepared. We are ready to go" if given such an order from President Barack Obama, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel told the BBC.
"We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfil ... whatever option the president wishes to take," he said.
The United States and its allies blame Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government for chemical weapons attacks Wednesday in Eastern Ghouta and Maadamiyet al-Sham, outside Damascus, which the opposition claimed killed at least 1,300 people.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem warned his country would defend itself in a way that would "surprise" its enemies.
France was "ready to punish" those who take the "vile decision to gas innocent people," President Francois Hollande said as he prepared to meet with his defence cabinet Wednesday.
"This civil war today threatens world peace," he said, citing as proof recent attacks in Lebanon and the influx of refugees into Jordan and Turkey.
"Everything leads us to believe that it is the regime that committed this abject act," Hollande said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron recalled Parliament for a vote Thursday on Britain's response, and the country's armed forces were making contingency plans for military action in a "proportionate response" to "deter" al-Assad's government from using such weapons in the future, Downing Street said.
"We have been informed of a strike by the world powers to punish the Syrian regime, but we do not have the details," said Monzer Makhous, the main opposition coalition's envoy in Paris. "This is being left for the world powers to decide."
He added: "We will support any move to punish such a regime, which has been killing its own people to remain in power at any expense."
France said it will increase its military support to the coalition within the limits of its commitments to Europe.
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