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Hague hints at Syria military move
Military action against Syria may be the only remaining response to the suspected large-scale chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime, William Hague has said.
The Foreign Secretary declined to be drawn on the options being considered by Western allies but would not rule out the possibility of air strikes or other measures being taken within days.
And he told MPs demanding the recall of parliament from its summer break ahead of any British involvement in any such intervention that it would "depend on the timing and nature of what we propose to do".
United Nations inspectors are due to visit the area of Damascus where chemical weapons were apparently deployed last week after the regime gave permission and a temporary ceasefire was agreed.
Syrian president Bashar Assad says the claims are "politically motivated" and defy logic as the regime has forces near the area - and warned in a Russian newspaper that any US-led military action would end in failure.
Mr Hague insisted there was "no other plausible explanation" and accused Damascus of delaying the arrival of the UN team to reduce the chances of them finding evidence.
Prime Minister David Cameron was involved in a round of phone calls with fellow leaders including American president Barack Obama over the weekend, who agreed the need to take "strong action". The National Security Council is due to meet amid mounting speculation that the US, Britain and France could back limited airstrikes to show that deployment of chemical weapons will not be tolerated.
Mr Hague told BBC Radio 4's Today: "Obviously I can't go into the military options at the moment. We, the United States, many other countries including France, are clear that we can't allow the idea in the 21st century that chemical weapons can be used with impunity."
Pressed on whether action could be taken as early as this week - ahead of parliament's scheduled return on Monday - he said: "I am not going to rule anything in or out. I am not going to speculate about that in public."
Mr Hague said diplomatic efforts to resolve the bitter civil war in Syria had failed - and suggested military action could now be the only alternative to allowing chemical weapon use with impunity, adding: "This may be the choice. This is why we have called for a strong response".
Any intervention would be "in accordance with international law and will be based on legal advice to the national security council and to the cabinet", he stressed. But it could be taken "without complete unity on the UN Security Council", he added, amid frustration over the continued support for the regime from Russia which has blocked previous efforts to secure UN backing.
Mr Cameron is under pressure from the Labour Opposition and from Tory backbenchers to explain himself to MPs before intervening. The Foreign Secretary said: "We have a good record on consulting parliament and having a vote in parliament if we decide to take any military action. Of course we are conscious of the views of parliament on these matters and the need to be consulted so we are very conscious of that. But our decisions on that will depend on the timing and nature of what we propose to do."