Syria agreed to allow the United Nations to inspect the site of last Wednesdays suspected chemical weapons attack but a US official said it was already too late. Foreign powers have been searching for a response since many hundreds of people were killed by poisonous gas on Wednesday in Damascus.
The UN said Damascus had agreed to a ceasefire while a UN team of experts are at the site for inspections which will begin on Monday. Syria confirmed it had agreed to allow the inspections.
But there were increasing signs that the US and its allies were considering taking action,a year after President Barack Obama said the use of chemical weapons was a red line that would prompt serious consequences.
A senior US official said there was very little doubt that the Syrian government had used a chemical weapon against civilians on Wednesday and that Washington was still weighing how to respond.
The official also said any decision to grant access to the UN would be too late to be credible because evidence had been corrupted by government shelling.
Syrias Information Minister Omran Zoabi said any US military action would create a ball of fire that will inflame the Middle East. He also said Damascus had evidence that chemical weapons were used by rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
A team of UN inspectors had arrived in Syria last week to investigate earlier reports of chemical weapons use.
US President Barack Obama met his top military and national security advisers on Saturday to debate options. US naval forces have been repositioned in the Mediterranean to give Obama the option of an armed strike. Based on the reported number of victims,reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured,witness accounts,and other facts gathered the US intelligence community,and international partners,there is very little doubt at this point that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians, the senior US official said.