, DAMASCUS, Aug 27 – Syria vowed Tuesday to defend itself as the US defence chief said his country’s forces are “ready” to launch attacks against the Syrian regime, accused of deadly chemical weapons attacks.
Global stock markets dived and world oil prices hit a six-month high over fears of possible military intervention, as the drumbeat of war appeared to grow louder in Western capitals.
Russia, Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s most powerful ally, warned any use of force would have “catastrophic consequences”.
During a defiant news conference, Syria Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said Damascus would defend itself against any strikes.
“We have two options: either to surrender, or to defend ourselves with the means at our disposal,” he said.
“The second choice is the best: we will defend ourselves.”
Muallem said Syria had capabilities that would “surprise” the world, and warned that any military action against it would serve the interests of Israel and Al-Qaeda.
He was speaking as the United States and its allies moved closer to acting, with the Washington Post reporting that President Barack Obama was weighing limited military strikes on targets in Syria.
Such action would probably last no more than two days and involve missiles or long-range bombers, striking military targets not directly related to Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, the newspaper cited senior administration officials as saying.
Speaking in Brunei, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said the military was prepared to act if Obama called for it.
“We are prepared. We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfil and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take,” he said.
“We are ready to go, like that.”