David Cameron has clashed with Russian president Vladimir Putin over Syria as Moscow accused Britain and other Western allies of risking aggravating the vicious civil war by launching military action.
The Prime Minister is engaged in a round of diplomatic calls with world leaders amid mounting signs of a likely armed intervention in response to a reported large-scale chemical weapon attack by the regime of president Bashar Assad.
He told Mr Putin there was “little doubt” that the government was behind the alleged atrocity and “no evidence” to back the regime’s claims that opposition forces were responsible, a Downing Street spokesman said.
“They both reiterated the position agreed by all leaders at the G8 in June: no-one should use chemical weapons and any use would merit a serious response from the international community,” he said.
Mr Cameron also said the regime’s failure to allow UN inspectors access until five days after the attack suggested they had “something to hide”. But the Russian president told him that there was “no evidence of whether a chemical weapons attack had taken place or who was responsible”, Number 10 said.
International tensions worsened when the inspectors came under sniper fire as they sought to investigate last week’s deadly attack, which killed hundreds in a suburb of Damascus, on the first day of their agreed visit.
Mr Cameron is to chair a meeting of the National Security Council on Wednesday to discuss potential responses to the deadly attack after breaking off his family holiday in Cornwall to return to Downing Street. Number 10 said a decision would be made today over whether to recall Parliament amid increasingly vocal demands from MPs on all sides to be given the chance to pre-approve any UK involvement.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said force may be the only remaining option after the failure of diplomatic efforts to end the bloody civil war in Syria, insisting that it could be deployed legally even without UN Security Council backing.