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Options on Syria are not about 'regime change,' says White House (VIDEO)

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the US is 'ready' to launch a strike on Syria if President Barack Obama chooses to order one.

Syria chemical weapons us ready to actEnlarge
An image grab taken from a video shows opposition fighter holding a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) as his fellow comrades take cover from an attack by regime forces on August 26, 2013 during clashes over the strategic area of Khanasser, situated on the only road linking Aleppo to central Syria. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the United States was "ready" to launch a strike on Syria if President Barack Obama chose to order one.

"We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take," Hagel told the BBC on Tuesday.

When asked if the US military was prepared to respond just "like that," Hagel replied, "We are ready to go, like that."

The White House clarified on Tuesday afternoon that the options regarding Syria were "not about regime change."

"That is not what we are contemplating here," press secretary Jay Carney said, adding that any response was about Syria violating international norms on the use of chemical weapons.

On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry said there was "undeniable" proof of chemical weapons attacks in Syria and called the targeting of civilians a "moral obscenity."

The United States said it will share evidence of the Syrian government's chemical weapon use in the coming days.

"I think the intelligence will conclude that it wasn't the rebels who used it, and there'll probably be pretty good intelligence to show ... that the Syria government was responsible," Hagel said.

"I think most of our allies, most of our partners, most of the international community that we've talked (to) — and we have reached out to many — have little doubt that the most base, human, international humanitarian standard was violated in using chemical weapons against their own people."

The State Department reiterated Tuesday that any solution to the Syrian conflict would have to be political, not military.

State Department spokesperson Maria Harf said the UN team in Syria was only responsible for determining whether chemical weapons were used, not whom they were used by. She added that the team was not safe and too much time had passed for evidence to be credible.

United Nations & Arab League

Chemical weapons inspectors from the United Nations were shot at on Monday as they tried to investigate the site near Damascus where Syrians were allegedly attacked with chemical weapons on Aug. 21, leaving an estimated 500 to 1,800 dead.

The UN team delayed a second trip to the site of a different alleged attack on Tuesday, in order to improve safety measures. "Considering the complexities of the site, confirmation of access has not been obtained but is expected later today," the UN said in a statement.

The Arab League, after holding an emergency meeting on Tuesday, blamed Assad's regime for the alleged chemical weapons attack and called on the UN Security Council to respond to "this heinous crime."

Syrian response

The Syrian opposition was informed that Western powers would strike Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces within days, according to sources who were present for a meeting between envoys in Istanbul.

A source told Reuters, "The opposition was told in clear terms that action to deter further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime could come as early as in the next few days, and that they should still prepare for peace talks at Geneva."

Meanwhile, Syria's foreign minister Walid al-Moallem responded to suggestions of a strike, saying his country would defend itself using "all means available."

Speaking in Damascus on Tuesday, al-Moallem challenged Kerry's assertion that the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons, calling for proof.

More from GlobalPost: Syria foreign minister denies chemical weapons attacks, calls Kerry's accusations 'categorically false'

US allies

The United States' ally Britain has also started making plans for military action in Syria, with Prime Minister David Cameron returning to London early to deal with the crisis.

On Twitter, Cameron said there would be a clear government motion and vote on the UK's response to the chemical weapons attacks.

Germany said it would consider responding with force after being faced with "very clear evidence that this was a chemical weapons attack," though Chancellor Angela Merkel urged a political solution.

France's foreign minister said Monday that the decision on whether to use force would be made in the coming days. "The options are open. The only option that I do not envisage is to do nothing," said Laurent Fabius.

On Tuesday, French President Francois Hollande said his country was "ready to punish" those responsible for the "chemical massacre" in Syria.

Hollande is scheduled to meet with the Syrian National Coalition, the main Syrian opposition group, on Thursday.

Assad's allies

Russia, one of the Syrian regime's few remaining allies, sent out a warning on Tuesday. It said that any military action on Syria could cause "catastrophic consequences" for the region and asked the international community to show "prudence."

"Attempts to bypass the Security Council, once again to create artificial groundless excuses for a military intervention in the region are fraught with new suffering in Syria and catastrophic consequences for other countries of the Middle East and North Africa," foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.

"We are calling on our American partners and all members of the world community to demonstrate prudence (and) strict observance of international law, especially the fundamental principles of the UN Charter," he continued.

China's official news agency Xinhua called the Western response to developments "irresponsible and dangerous," saying that recent rhetoric indicated "they have put the arrow on the bowstring and would shoot even without a UN mandate."

While Reuters noted that Xinhua's commentaries are not official statements, they do reflect the thinking of the Chinese government.

GlobalPost's Tracey Shelton spoke to Syrian refugees in Lebanon about their reactions to the alleged chemical weapons attack:

Watch Kerry's speech on Tuesday on the alleged chemical weapons attack:

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/130827/hagel-says-us-ready-syria-strike-if-ordered-video