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US still seeks ‘international coalition’ on Syria -­ Hagel

The United States is still seeking an “international coalition” in response to Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons, despite a vote against military action by British MPs, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said yesterday.

31_08_2013_004_008_005“Our approach is to continue to find an international coalition that will act together,” Hagel told a news conference.

Hagel said Washington respected the British parliament’s stance rejecting participation in any punitive strikes against Syria’s regime.

A shock House of Commons vote defeated British Prime Minister David Cameron’s bid to win support for military intervention in Syria on Thursday.

“Every nation has a responsibility to make its own decisions,” Hagel said during a visit to Manila.

“We are continuing to consult with the British as with all of our allies. That consultation includes ways forward together on a response to this chemical weapons attack in Syria.”

Asked if there was anything Syria could do to prevent possible US military action, Hagel said he could not speculate.

“I have not been informed of any change in the Assad’s regime’s position on any issue. I deal with the reality with what we have. I don’t speculate on hypothetical situations,” he said at a joint news conference with this Philippine counterpart, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

The US government has accused Syrian government forces of being behind a chemical attack on a Damascus suburb on August 21 that it said killed hundreds of people.

Hagel went ahead with his visit to Manila despite the tense showdown over Syria, with US forces prepared to launch punitive strikes against the Damascus regime if ordered by President Barack Obama.

The United States has no plan to establish permanent bases in the Philippines and instead will pursue a new model of military-to-military cooperation, particularly the proposed increased rotational presence, to increase ability to train and operate together, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said after a meeting with President Aquino in Malacañang; Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the US troops will be given access to Subic port and other military facilities once the military pact is signed.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Obama government is consulting with United Kingdom and other allies on ways to move forward in response to the last week’s alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria. (AFP)