Damascus/London : Fear and discomfort were palpable among those living in Damascus, as the prospects of US-led military strike on Syria appeared to grow on Tuesday.

American forces are “ready” to launch strikes on Syria if President Barack Obama chooses to order an attack, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said.

“We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfil and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take,” Hagel told the BBC. He was referring to American warships, which have positioned themselves for a possible strike.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has said there is “undeniable” proof that Syria used chemical weapons against its own citizens.

The developments came as United Nations weapons inspectors postponed a second visit to alleged chemical attack sites on the outskirts of Damascus, after having failed to secure assurances of their safety.

Syria has asked the Western nations to provide evidence on the involvement of its troops in chemical weapons use. The country’s foreign minister said that his government was interested in revealing the reality of the chemical attack that supposedly took place in Damascus’s countryside. He said this even as he stressed that the government has lived up to its part of the deal with the UN but the rebels have hindered the mission of the UN inspectors.

The specter of a war dominated the headlines of satellite channels. “I don’t want Syria to become another Iraq… Enough bloodshed,” cried one Syrian woman.

Prime Minister David Cameron has cut short his holiday and returned to London; the UK Parliament will meet on Thursday to discuss possible responses. Britain’s armed forces, meanwhile, started working on contingency plans in case there is military action in the Middle Eastern country.

Russia, Syria’s most powerful ally, warned however that any use of force would have “catastrophic consequences” while calling on the United States to show “prudence” and adhere to international law.

The crisis follows last Wednesday’s suspected chemical attack, which reportedly killed more than 300 people.

President Francois Hollande has said France was “ready to punish” whoever was behind the attack, and has decided to increase military support for Syria’s main opposition.

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