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US, Britain reported to be considering use of force in Syria

There is growing speculation that the US, possibly along with some of its allies could be moving closer to a military strike in Syria. Britain has indicated it is already drawing up plans for possible military action.

A spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters on Tuesday that the allegations of an attack using chemical weapons in Syria were "absolutely abhorrent" and that the British military would be preparing to take any action the government asked it to take, if and when a decision to use force is taken.

"It's reasonable to assume our forces are making contingency plans," the spokesman said, while at the same time stressing that no political decision had yet been taken.

The spokesman also said the prime minister was aware that he would have to "make a clear case" if the government did decide to use force.

This was just the latest indication that the US and its allies may be considering launching some sort of military action in Syria.

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Kerry: Use of chemical weapons 'undeniable'

Earlier in the day, Russia expressed regret that the US had "cancelled" talks aimed at organizing a peace conference for Syria, which were to have been held in The Hague on Wednesday.

"Working out the political parameters for a resolution in Syria would be exceptionally useful now, when the threat of (military) force hangs over this country," Russia's deputy foreign minister, Gennady Gatilov, wrote on the micro blogging website Twitter.

US officials said the meeting had only been postponed and that they hoped to reschedule it for a later date.

This came just hours after US Secretary of State John Kerry used a press conference in Washington on Monday to accuse the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of a covering up a chemical weapons attack.

"Let me be clear. The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity," he said. "By any standard it is inexcusable, and despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable," he said.

While he stopped short of directly pointing the finger at Assad, he indicated that the US had its own information on the events of last Wednesday, independent of that which United Nations weapons inspectors began to gather, when they visited the site of the alleged attack on Monday.

Military strike speculation

Meanwhile, the Washington Post has reported that US President Barack Obama is considering limited military action in Syria. The report quoted unnamed senior US officials who said this action would last no more than two days and be designed to avoid getting drawn into wider involvement in the conflict.

The New York Times published a similar report, in which it cited senior officials who said this could involve cruise missiles launched from US vessels in the Mediterranean Sea. It also ruled out a longer military campaign aimed at toppling Assad or influencing the outcome of the conflict.

It appears any military action would have to come without the approval of the UN Security Council. Syria's ally, Russia, which as a permanent member wields veto powers, is strictly opposed the idea.

On Monday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich warned that such a "gamble" could have "catastrophic consequences" not only for Syria, but also the entire region.

pfd/hc (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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