UK & World News
Syria: Obama Says US 'Should Take Action'
President Barack Obama has said the US "should take military action" following the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.
In a televised address, he told the American people that after "careful deliberation", he was "convinced" of the need for action, and said the US was "prepared to strike whenever we choose".
However, he has formally requested authorisation from Congress before any use of force, effectively ruling out any strike before members return on September 9.
The French interior minister Manuel Valls told a radio station France cannot act alone against Syria and will await the US decision.
The country's prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault will meet heads of parliament and the opposition on Monday ahead of a debate on Wednesday.
And British Foreign Secretary William Hague told Sky News' Murnaghan show that David Cameron will not make a renewed attempt to persuade MPs to support military action.
He said "Parliament has spoken" and that even if the facts change Britain will have to support others rather than participate in any military sense.
Earlier, a Syrian official said the country was braced for an attack "at any moment", while prime minister Wael al Halqi declared: "The army is fully ready, its finger on the trigger, to face any challenge or scenario they want to carry out."
Mr Obama described the alleged attack in Damascus earlier this month, in which hundreds of people are believed to have been massacred by Bashar al Assad's regime, as "the worst chemical weapons attack of the 21st century" and an "assault on human dignity".
"It also presents a serious danger to our national security and risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons," he said.
However, he ruled out sending in troops on the ground and said any attack on Syria would have only "limited scope".
Mr Obama acknowledged the US was "wary of war" but added: "We cannot and must not turn a blind eye to what happened in Damascus."
Senior officials within the Obama administration told the Associated Press the president planned to launch air strikes on Syria without approval from congress but changed his mind after a lengthy discussion with Denis McDonough, his chief of staff.
The Syrian main opposition bloc said it was "disappointed" with Mr Obama's decision but said it believed lawmakers would approve a strike.
Mr Obama's statement came after UN weapons inspectors left Syria, crossing into neighbouring Lebanon before flying to the Netherlands where samples they collected in Damascus will be examined.
Up to 1,429 people, including at least 426 children, were killed in the alleged attack, according to US estimates.
However, the UN said all available information must be evaluated "before the mission can draw any conclusions" - a process Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said may take two weeks.
His spokesman Martin Nesirky said the weapons inspectors had been able to carry out a "wide range of fact-finding activities" in Damascus, adding: "The Secretary General has expressed his sincere appreciation to the UN team for their exceptional bravery and professionalism."
However, Mr Obama said the UN Security Council had so far been "completely paralysed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable", and said he was "comfortable going forward" without its approval.
"Now is the time to show the world the America keeps our commitments," Mr Obama said. "We do what we say and we lead with the belief that right makes might, not the other way around."
He added: "Here's my question for Congress and every member of the global community. What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price?"
Meanwhile, a poll carried out for the Mail on Sunday reveals almost two-thirds of Britons are opposed to UK military action against Syria.
The same number of those questioned said the experience of Iraq has made them less likely to trust future prime ministers over whether Britain should go to war.