UK & World News
Syria: US 'Using Lies To Justify Strikes'
One of Syrian President Bashar al Assad's advisers has said the United States is using "lies" and "fabrications" to justify the use of the military force.
Dr Bouthaina Shaaban told Sky News the Syrian government was not behind the August 21 attack in which the US estimates 1,400 people were killed, and accused the West of standing in the way of democracy.
"They claim to want to be targeting weapons in exactly the same way they claimed to be targeting weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," she said.
"They are using the same lies, the same fabrications, the same claims, in order to target our country and our people."
It came after President Barack Obama, who is trying to secure support at home and abroad for the use of force in Syria, said failure to respond to the use of chemical weapons would risk further attacks.
US Congress will decide next week whether to authorise military action, after a draft resolution, limiting initial attacks to 60 days and ruling out "boots on the ground", cleared its first congressional hurdle.
It won the support of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, while some of the President's top security aides appeared before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee to make their case for military intervention.
Speaking ahead of a G20 summit in Russia at which the Syria crisis is likely to feature strongly, Mr Obama said the international community could not "be silent" in the face of "barbarism".
He also said he had "hit a wall" with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has warned the use of force without UN approval would be an "aggression" and a violation of international law.
The two leaders had been due to meet ahead of the St Petersburg summit but Mr Obama cancelled the engagement, travelling instead to Sweden.
In other developments, Syria's deputy foreign minister said the regime would not give in to threats of a US-led military strike against the country.
"The Syrian government will not change position even if there is World War III," Faisal Muqdad said. "No Syrian can sacrifice the independence of his country."
Meanwhile, French politicians have been debating whether to join any possible military intervention, although they will not vote on the subject.
The country's President Francois Hollande has the power to order short military action without parliamentary approval.
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told an emergency meeting of MPs: "To not act would be to put in danger peace and security in the entire region.
"What message would this send to other regimes? The message would be clear - you can continue."
Meanwhile, Hans Blix, a former UN arms inspector, told Sky News Mr Obama risks undermining the UN by taking military action alone.
"I understand him when he says that if the global community does not intervene against the violation of the ban on the use of chemical weapons, we're on a slippery slope," he said.
"However, he hasn't addressed the question of undermining the charter of the UN, which requires that states do not use force unless it's in self defence or has been authorised by the Security Council."
In Britain, Foreign Secretary William Hague is expected to meet with Ahmed Asi Al Jarba, the President of the Syrian National Coalition.
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said the meeting comes at a "critical time", with discussions likely to include how the UK may offer "practical support".
At the first Prime Minister's Questions of the autumn, David Cameron attacked Labour for its stance on military action in Syria, as an Ipsos Mori poll revealed 64% of Britons were dissatisfied with his handling of the crisis.