UK & World News
Syria: PM Cuts Holiday To Discuss 'Attack'
Britain and other countries could respond to an alleged chemical attack in Syria without the unanimous backing of the UN, the Foreign Secretary has said.
Speaking as weapons inspectors set off for an area of Damascus where hundreds of people are reported to have been killed, William Hague suggested military action may be the only remaining option.
He said such a response would not require the "complete unity" of the UN Security Council, telling the BBC: "Otherwise it might be impossible to respond to such outrages, such crimes."
Mr Hague's comments came as David Cameron announced he was cutting short his holiday to chair a meeting of the UK's National Security Committee.
Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander urged the Prime Minister to recall Parliament to "make his case in advance of a decision being made".
A Downing Street spokesman said summoning MPs from their summer break had not been ruled out, but stressed Mr Cameron "reserved the ability to take action very swiftly if needed".
No decisions had been taken on military action and there was no clear timetable, he insisted.
Meanwhile, French politicians are preparing to meet "in the coming days" to decide whether to respond with force, according to the country's foreign minister Laurent Fabius.
There is mounting speculation that France, together with Britain and the US, could back limited airstrikes to demonstrate that deployment of chemical weapons will not be tolerated.
Mr Assad has said any attack by the US would "fail", and Russia has warned of "extremely dangerous consequences" if military strikes are launched.
At least two mortar bombs landed close to the inspectors' hotel as they left for the suburbs of Zamalka and Ein Tarma, where chemical weapons were apparently used last week.
Mr Assad's regime, which blamed the bombings on rebel fighters, said the visit would prove that claims by the opposition that chemical weapons were used against civilians, including children, were "lies".
The opposition claimed 1,300 people were killed, while Doctors Without Borders said 355 people died in hospital from "neurotoxic" symptoms.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said the people of Syria deserved to know the truth, adding: "We cannot allow impunity in what appears to be a grave crime against humanity."
An intense round of diplomacy is continuing, with Mr Cameron and French President Francois Hollande warning the alleged crime "must not be swept under the carpet".
A Number 10 spokesman said the Prime Minister had agreed with German chancellor Angela Merkel that there was "little doubt" Assad's forces were behind the incident.
Over the weekend Mr Cameron and Barack Obama spent 40 minutes discussing the situation, ordering officials to examine "all options".
Mr Obama previously suggested that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a "game changer", but he has stopped short of committing to military intervention - a step that would risk a confrontation with Russia.