UK's Cabinet says Syria chemical attack calls for 'action'

The British government has signalled that it was ready to back USA military action against Syria, saying it was "highly likely" the Assad regime used chemical weapons on its own people and that such action could not go unchallenged.

Ms May has not reached a final decision on whether Britain would join any strikes by the United States and France in response to a suspected chemical attack, but wants to be able to act swiftly, the newspaper said.

However, some of her MPs have expressed caution about getting involved in the complex conflict in Syria and are pressing for parliament to be recalled from its Easter break to discuss any action.

May's office said in a statement that the Cabinet judged it "highly likely" the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad was behind the chemical attack last weekend in the town of Douma.

"Cabinet agreed on the need to take action to alleviate humanitarian distress and to deter the further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime", a spokeswoman for the prime minister said in a statement after the meeting.

Britain's Ministry of Defense refused to comment on reports that Royal Navy submarines armed with cruise missiles have been dispatched into range of Syria.

No indication of the timing or scale of any action was given.

Liberal Democrats leader Sir Vince Cable demanded Parliament be recalled to discuss and vote on the Syria crisis, telling the BBC: 'The position is a very unsafe one because of Russian involvement - also because we have an erratic president of the United States'.

Britain is now part of a US-led coalition conducting air strikes against jihadists from the Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq and Syria, and has conducted more than 1,700 such attacks.

The UK is gearing up to take military action against Syria - and it could come as soon as Thursday.

It comes after a suspected chemical attack in Douma, Syria, believed to have been carried out by the Syrian government.

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The BBC earlier on Wednesday said May was ready to give the go-ahead for Britain to take part in action led by the United States without seeking prior approval from parliament.

"What we don't want is bombardment which leads to escalation and leads to a hot war between Russian Federation and America over the skies of Syria".

May is not required by law to seek parliamentary approval for offensive military action, but recent interventions in Libya and Iraq have been put to a vote.

Meanwhile, Russia forcefully denied that Syria had used any chemical weapons at all.

The crisis has evoked memories of the Iraq War, which was approved by parliament and left 179 British soldiers dead and unleashed years of sectarian violence.

A YouGov poll in The Times conducted this week found that 43% of voters oppose strikes in Syria, with 34% unsure and only 22% supportive.

Attacks by alleged perpetrators since 2013, according to data analysed by Human Rights Watch.

Julian Lewis, the chair of the House of Commons' Defence Committee, told Sky News the Prime Minister should be considering "smarter methods of warfare" such as a cyber attack, rather than missile strikes.

Another Conservative MP, former London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith, tweeted: "We need a clear response to the Syrian chemical outrage".

May is not obliged to win parliament's approval, but a non-binding constitutional convention to do so has been established since a 2003 vote on joining the USA -led invasion of Iraq. "And what happens after".

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