In a televised address, French President Francois Hollande said it was the world’s responsibility to take action.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the BBC that U.S. forces are “ready to go,” but he reiterated that the United States wants to work “in concert” with the international community. “We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take,” Hagel said.
In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday afternoon that President Obama has been consulting other world leaders but has not yet decided on a course of action in Syria. Carney said Obama has spoken with Cameron, Hollande, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
Obama “will continue to make calls to his counterparts throughout the week,” Carney said. “Nothing has been decided,” he added.
In Syria, meanwhile, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said Syria’s military would defend the country against any foreign intervention. Syria vehemently denies responsibility for the attack, which left more than 300 people dead and many wounded.
“We all hear the drums of war around us,” Moualem said. “If they want to attack Syria, I think that using the lie of chemical weapons is fake and not accurate, and I challenge them to show evidence.”
He said the idea of a Western military strike to change the balance of power in Syria, which has been embroiled in a vicious civil conflict for more than two years, is “delusional and not at all possible.”
Moualem said Secretary of State John F. Kerry called him Thursday, their first contact in 2 1/2 years. During a “friendly” conversation, Moualem said, Kerry requested that a U.N. team in Syria be allowed access to areas where the strikes allegedly happened.
The U.N. inspectors gained access Monday to one of the sites of last week’s alleged chemical attack and spent three hours interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence, despite its convoy briefly coming under sniper fire earlier in the day.
Following the incident, a second day of investigations was postponed Tuesday. Moualem said the team was not able to visit a second site because rebel groups could not guarantee security. Khalid Saleh, a spokesman for the Syrian Opposition Coalition, blamed the Syrian government, saying it had not allowed the U.N. team to leave its hotel, citing “security reasons.”
The United Nations declined to comment on why the team was delayed, saying that casting blame could jeopardize negotiations over safely reaching the areas struck by the attack.