United Kingdom agrees on 'need to take action' over Syria

The statement further said: "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".

Any potential strike against Syria could be carried out by extensive US and United Kingdom military assets already in the region, including two US Navy destroyers armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles.

French President Emmanuel Macron claimed that France had "proof" the Assad regime used chemical weapons in Douma at the weekend, and would support any USA action.

He said the attack was staged on April 7 to coincide with military action by Syrian government forces, after the rebel group Jaish al-Islam that long controlled Eastern Ghouta carried out shelling of Damascus from April 3 to 6. The West was accused of attacking the Assad regime.

The British Cabinet has unanimously backed Theresa May's warning that Syria's use of chemical weapons can not go unchallenged, leaving the way open for British participation in military action against Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Global investigators are due to begin work in Syria on Saturday to determine if in fact banned weapons were used. Moscow has denied any involvement.

"Cabinet agreed that the Assad regime has a track record of the use of chemical weapons and it is highly likely that the regime is responsible for Saturday's attack", Downing Street said.

Sturgeon said the suspected use of chemical weapons was "sickening", but warned that the latest action risked "dangerous escalation".

On Thursday, May was also given the backing of her most influential foreign policy backbencher, Tom Tugendhat, to take part in any western strike against Syria without a Commons mandate.

Correction: This article has been updated to correct the title of French President Emmanuel Macron.

However, opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a fervent anti-war campaigner, called the strikes "legally questionable" and said May should have recalled parliament from recess and "not trailed after Donald Trump". "Bombs won't save lives or bring about peace".

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