UN vehicles leave the Four Season Hotel in Damascus, Syria, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. U.N. experts investigating purported poison gas attacks left their Damascus hotel Thursday, but anti-regime activists said the team's destination was not immediately know
United Nations experts are investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria as the United States and its allies prepare for the possibility of a punitive strike against President Bashar Assad's regime, blamed by the Syrian opposition for the attack. The international aid group Doctors Without Borders says at least 355 people were killed in the Aug. 21 attack in a suburb of Damascus, the Syrian capital.
Here's a look at key Syria developments around the world Friday amid heightened tensions over potential military action:
French President Francois Hollande said his country can go ahead with plans to strike Syria for allegedly using chemical weapons despite the British parliament's failure to endorse military action. He told the newspaper Le Monde that the "chemical massacre of Damascus cannot and must not remain unpunished."
U.N. experts began what is expected to be the last day of their investigation into the Aug. 21 attack. After an early morning delay, three U.N. vehicles left a Damascus hotel for more on-site visits. It was not immediately known where they were going.
Presidential foreign policy advisor Yuri Ushakov expressed puzzlement over why the U.N. team was leaving so soon "when there are many questions about a possible use of chemical weapons in other areas in Syria." He said Russia has not seen the U.S. intelligence that Washington claims proves the role of the Syrian government in last week's alleged chemical weapons attack.
Treasury chief George Osborne warned that Britain should not turn its back on the world after the stunning parliamentary defeat of a government motion for military intervention in Syria. He told the BBC there will be "national soul-searching" about Britain's global role after the "no" vote.
President Barack Obama prepared for the possibility of launching unilateral American military action against Syria within days as Britain opted out. Top U.S. officials spoke with lawmakers for more than 90 minutes in a teleconference Thursday evening to explain why they believe Syrian President Bashar Assad's government was the culprit in the suspected chemical attack last week.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Germany isn't considering joining military action against Syria and hasn't been asked by others to do so. Berlin has called for the international community to take a "clear position" following the alleged chemical attack, but has left open what exactly that might entail.
Followers of anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr held rallies in Baghdad and the southern Iraqi city of Basra to denounce any western strikes against Syria. In the capital, about 2,000 Sadrists demonstrated while chanting anti-American slogans after Friday prayers. About 3,000 Sadrists rallied in Basra, some carrying banners reading "No to America."
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