Syria on Friday accused the United States of fabricating an intelligence report claiming the government used chemical weapons, while signs showed that the Obama administration is preparing for military actions against the Middle East country.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry said the U.S. accusations are "baseless lies," saying the U.S. used "fabricated" narratives circulated by armed rebels to frame the Syrian government.
In an unclassified intelligence report released on Friday, the United States claimed that 1,429 people, including at least 426 children, were killed during a gas attack near Damascus in the early hours of Aug. 21.
Ruling out the possibility that the opposition conducted the attack, the report noted that Washington has "high confidence" that the Syrian government carried out the attack and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is "the ultimate decision maker."
In a televised statement on Syria, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States will "make its own decision" on its own timeline in response to Syria, noting its choice matters to U.S. security, credibility and leadership.
Following the report, U.S. President Barack Obama said he was considering a "limited, narrow act" in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict.
The U.S. president said he made "no final decision" and was "looking at a wide range of options," but ruled out "any boots on the ground approach."
Meanwhile, after British parliament vetoed a government action plan, Obama on Friday talked to his only major ally French President Francois Hollande over possible strike on Syria.
"Both heads of state agreed that the international community cannot tolerate the use of chemical weapons, that it should hold the Syrian regime accountable for it and send a strong message," said a statement issued by the Elysee Palace.
After Britain balked at the strike on Thursday, Germany and NATO also ruled out taking part in the possibly imminent strike.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told the newspaper Neue Osnabrucker Zeitung that any German participation in the military operation had "neither been asked nor is it being considered," saying it was up to "the United Nations Security Council to find a common position."
It marks a change of stance of the German government that previously said the Syrian government must be held responsible for the consequences of lethal attacks.
A Danish newspaper on Friday quoted NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen as saying that NATO will not take part in the possible attack against Syria in response to alleged use of chemical weapons.
Rasmussen said NATO's role will primarily be to support the member country Turkey, while he said he has no doubt that the Syrian government was behind the chemical attack against civilians.
As UN inspectors in Damascus are scheduled to leave for The Hague on Saturday, Syria said Friday that it rejects any partial report by the UN before its investigation team's mission is completed, requesting the UN team to look into sites where the government accused the rebels of using nerve agents against troops and civilians.
The UN has promised to return later to investigate several other alleged poison gas attacks that have taken place in Syria during the country's two-and-half-year civil war.
UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said all the analysis of the samples
must be completed before conclusions can be drawn. Diplomats said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has told Security Council members it may be two weeks before final results of the tests are ready.
On the same day, Ban started a series of consultations with the UN members on Syria amid escalating tension.
On Thursday, Ban spoke over the phone with Obama about how the United Nations and the United States could work together to "expedite the process of the investigation."