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US forces ready to act against Syria: Hagel

US forces ready to act  against Syria: Hagel
Highlights

The United States will soon share evidence that Syria unleashed chemical weapons on its own people, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Tuesday. He...

  • America ready to share evidence that Syria used chemical weapons
  • Damascus accuses Kerry of lying, disregarding United Nations
  • Russia regrets US postponing meeting on Syria

Jerudong (Brunei) (AFP): The United States will soon share evidence that Syria unleashed chemical weapons on its own people, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Tuesday. He also said that US forces were ready to act any moment. The Pentagon chief, on a tour of Southeast Asia, reiterated that US forces stood ready to act at a moment's notice, amid mounting speculation the United States, France and Britain are poised to stage military action against the Syrian regime.

"Syria used chemical weapons against its own people," Hagel told the BBC in an interview. Now, we'll have more information and more intelligence here very shortly to present. I think the Secretary (of State John Kerry) noted that yesterday," he said in Brunei, where is attending a gathering of regional defence ministers.

Syria on Tuesday said US Secretary of State John Kerry was lying when he stated there was "undeniable" evidence of a large-scale chemical attack likely launched by Damascus, accusing him of disregarding the work of UN investigators.

On Monday, Kerry used tough language to refer to an alleged poison gas attack in Damascus last week, saying that an "international norm cannot be violated without consequences." The remarks were the clearest justification yet for US military action in Syria, which, if President Barack Obama decides to order, most likely would involve sea-launched cruise missile attacks on Syrian military targets.

Support for some sort of international military response was likely to grow if it is confirmed that Assad's regime was responsible for the August 21 attack in the Damascus suburbs that activists say killed hundreds of people. The group Doctors Without Borders put the death toll at 355.

The Syrian statement published on Monday on the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency, which acts as a government mouthpiece, said Kerry's insistence on "jumping over" the work of UN experts in Syria shows that the US has deliberate intentions to exploit events.

Russia said it regretted a decision by the United States to shelve a meeting on the Syria crisis this week, as expectations mount of military action against the Damascus regime. The scrapping of the planned meeting in The Hague is the latest sign of a new peak in tensions between Moscow and the West over the possibility of military strikes against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Iran has warned a visiting top UN official of "serious consequences" for the region in case of international military action in Syria, foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi said. The message was conveyed by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a meeting yesterday with UN political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman, who is in Tehran for talks that included Syria, Araqchi told reporters.

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