U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging world powers to hold off on possible military action against Syria until a U.N. chemical weapons inspection team completes its work in the country.
U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq says the inspection team will leave Syria on Saturday. He said some of the inspectors will travel to New York and brief the Security Council on their findings while others will take samples that they had collected to labs in Europe.
In a Thursday briefing, Haq said the team had a "large number of facts" at its disposal and could "construct a narrative of what happened."
Earlier, Mr. Ban said "diplomacy should be given a chance" as the U.S. and other Western powers consider their response to the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians last week.
Also Thursday, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council were holding a second day of private consultations on Syria after failing to reach a consensus on a British-drafted resolution calling for possible military action.
British Prime Minister David Cameron is facing stiff opposition from some members of parliament as he tried to make the case for his country's possible role in any military action in Syria.
During a Thursday session, some lawmakers questioned if British military action would draw the country further into Syria's civil war. Cameron argued that no response would send Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a message that he could use chemical weapons with no fear of reprisal.
In Washington, President Barack Obama's top national security advisers planned to brief members of Congress on Thursday about intelligence on the alleged poison gas attacks that killed hundreds of civilians in Damascus suburbs.
Mr. Obama says he has not decided on any action, but he has vowed that those who break international norms need to be held accountable.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said an unclassified intelligence report on Syria could be released as early as Thursday.
The U.S. Navy deployed a fifth destroyer to the eastern Mediterranean region. Defense officials say the USS Stout will eventually replace another ship in the region but they did not say when the switch would take place.
The Syrian government denies having any role in the alleged gas attacks. And state media reported that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Thursday his country would defend itself against any aggression and emerge "victorious."