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Britain, US undecided on details of Syrian in -

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TONY EASTLEY: It seems the West is moving ever closer to taking some form of military action against the Syrian regime in response to last week's suspected chemical attack.

Britain and the US say no decision has been made yet exactly how to proceed. But the British Prime Minister David Cameron says any action will be rooted in international law.

Syria says it will defend itself against attack using all available means.

Europe correspondent Mary Gearin reports.

MARY GEARIN: The British leader has a firm message for those who think military intervention in Syria could drag the West into a protracted campaign.

DAVID CAMERON: Let me stress to people, this is not about getting involved in a Middle Eastern war or changing our stance in Syria or going further into that conflict. It's nothing to do with that. It's about chemical weapons. Their use is wrong and the world shouldn't stand idly by.

MARY GEARIN: David Cameron insists whatever action is decided upon would be proportionate and rooted in international law.

And he says the critical question is whether not responding to last week's attack would make it more likely that more chemical weapons would be used in the future.

White House spokesman Jay Carney agreed.

JAY CARNEY: To allow it to happen without a response would be to invite further use of chemical weapons and to have that international standard dissolve. And the consequences of that, given the volatility of the region and the concerns that this nation and many others have about proliferation of chemical weapons, would be very serious indeed.

MARY GEARIN: The Arab League has joined the chorus of countries placing the blame for the carnage squarely on the Syrian government. While it hasn't mentioned military action, the league has accused the Assad regime of genocide, demanding the perpetrators face justice for the ugly crime.

And French president Francois Hollande helped raise the diplomatic temperature.

FRANCOIS HOLLANDE (translated): The Damascus chemical massacre cannot remain unanswered and France is ready to punish those who took the heinous decision to gas innocents.

MARY GEARIN: In response, Russia's deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin compared the West, in its behaviour toward the Islamic world to a monkey with a grenade, while Iran has warned of dire consequences for the whole region.

Syria's foreign minister Walid Muallem said the country would defend itself with the means at its disposal. He once again denied the regime launched a toxic attack.

WALID MUALLEM: I challenge all countries who saying that Syria used chemical weapon to present their evidence to their public opinion.

MARY GEARIN: Mr Cameron insisted he'll consider the concerns of MPs when Parliament is recalled this week to vote on Britain's position, even though the vote will not be legally binding.

Opposition foreign secretary Douglas Alexander warns Mr Cameron will need to argue his case.

DOUGLAS ALEXANDER: I'm not prepared to write the government a blank cheque. They haven't been clear as to the military objective that they are aiming for. They aren't clear on the basis of the evidence that they themselves have seen and they aren't yet clear as to the legal basis on which any action would be conducted.

MARY GEARIN: Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has talked with his British counterpart about the crisis and the two leaders reiterated the need for a serious response.

This is Mary Gearin in London for AM.