Russia and China have stepped up their warnings against military intervention in Syria, with Moscow saying any such action would have "catastrophic consequences" for the region.
The US and its allies are considering launching strikes on Syria in response to deadly attacks last week. The US said there was "undeniable" proof of a chemical attack, on Monday. UN chemical weapons inspectors are due to start a second day of investigations in the suburbs of Damascus. The UN team came under sniper fire as they tried to visit an area west of the city on Monday. A spokesman for UK Prime Minister David Cameron says the UK is making contingency plans for military action in Syria. Mr Cameron has cut short his holiday and returned to London to deal with the Syrian crisis.
Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich has called on the international community to show"prudence" over the crisis and observe international law. "Attempts to bypass the Security Council, once again to create artificial groundless excuses for a military intervention in the region are fraught with new suffering in Syria and catastrophic consequences for other countries of the Middle East and North Africa," he said in a statement. Late on Monday, the US said it was postponing a meeting on Syria with Russian diplomats, citing "ongoing consultations" about alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria. Hours later, Russia expressed regret about the decision. The two sides had been due to meet in The Hague on Wednesday to discuss setting up an international conference on finding a political solution to the crisis. The Russian deputy defence minister, Gennady Gatilov said working out the political parameters for a resolution on Syria would be especially useful, with the threat of force hanging over the country.
UN chemical weapons inspectors spent nearly three hours in the suburb of Muadhamiya in western Damascus on Monday.
On Monday, Mr Cameron spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin who said there was no evidence yet that Syria had used chemical weapons against rebels, Mr Cameron's office said. The official Chinese news agency, Xinhua, said Western powers were rushing to conclusions about who may have used chemical weapons in Syria before UN inspectors had completed their investigation. UN visit Both the Syrian government and rebels have blamed each other for last Wednesday's attacks. Medical charity Medicines Sans Frontieres said three hospitals it supported in the Damascus area had treated about 3,600 patients with "neurotoxic symptoms", of whom 355 had died.