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US Continues to Seek International Backing on Syria

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the United States will continue to seek an international coalition in response to Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons, despite opposition by British lawmakers to any military action.

Hagel spoke to reporters in Manila Friday, after Britain's lower house of Parliament rejected a motion for British participation in a military strike.

The non-binding vote is a setback for British Prime Minister David Cameron, who told lawmakers a military strike would be a response to a war crime, not an attempt to topple the Syrian government.



Despite the setback, Cameron says it is important for Britain to uphold the "international taboo on the use of chemical weapons."



"We will continue to take a case to the United Nations. We will continue to work in all the organizations we're members of, whether the EU or NATO or the G8 or the G20, to condemn what's happened in Syria."



French President Francois Hollande on Friday said the British vote will not affect his country's position on Syria. In an interview with Le Monde newspaper, he said he does not favor international action merely to overthrow the government, but a chemical assault must not go unpunished.

The White House could make public on Friday a declassified version of an intelligence report on an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria.

Members of Congress who were briefed by senior administration officials on Thursday say there is no doubt the Syrian government carried out the deadly attack near Damascus, last week.

Democratic Representative Eliot Engel said the U.S. officials cited intercepted communications between senior Syrian officials. He also said intelligence showed the Syrians moved materials around in advance of a chemical strike.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's chief foreign policy aide said the British decision shows that "people are beginning to understand" the dangers of a military strike.

Germany also appears to be backing away from any military intervention in Syria. Government officials say a military commitment has not been requested and is not being considered.

Syria denies carrying out a chemical attack and accuses the rebels of using such weapons on Syrian soldiers.

In Syria, opposition activists say there is heavy shelling, on Friday in suburban Damascus.


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