Syria army has 'finger on the trigger'; Iran says US strike will trigger reactions 'beyond' Syria
"The Syrian army is fully ready, its finger on the trigger to face any challenge or scenario that they want to carry out," he said in a written statement aired on television.
Damascus has ratched up the rhetoric as the world waits to see if the United States and others decide to strike it in retaliation for a suspected gas attack blamed on the regime.
Meanwhile, the head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards warned Saturday that a US strike on Syria would trigger reactions beyond the borders of Tehran's key regional ally, ISNA news agency reported.
"The fact that the Americans believe that military intervention will be limited to within Syrian borders is an illusion; it will provoke reactions beyond that country," commander Mohammad Ali Jafari was quoted as saying.
"Just as US interventions in the Islamic world (Afghanistan, Iraq) have bolstered extremism, so will an aggression on Syria reinforce extremism and, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, its results will be pain, massacre and the exodus of the innocent population," he added.
UN inspectors probing whether an August 21 attack actually happened left Syria earlier on Saturday, opening a window for a possible US-led strike.
Several hours later, a Syrian security official who wished to remain anonymous said the country was expecting an assault "at any moment," adding authorities were ready to retaliate.
On Friday, US President Barack Obama gave his clearest indication yet that a military intervention was imminent.He said his administration was looking at the possibility of a "limited, narrow act", while stressing that no final decision had been taken on whether to do so.
Washington says the alleged poison gas attack killed more than 1,400 people.
Damascus denies being responsible for the incident, blaming it on rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad.
Syria expects a military attack "at any moment", a security official told AFP Saturday, just hours after UN experts probing a suspected gas attack blamed on the regime left the country.
"We are expecting an attack at any moment. We are ready to retaliate at any moment," said the security official, who wished to remain anonymous.
US President Barack Obama on Friday gave his clearest indication yet that an attack was imminent after his intelligence experts concluded Syria's regime had unleashed poison gas on civilians.
In the meantime Russia said that the West would be making a "tragic mistake" by launching military strikes on its ally Syria as the international community headed for a repeat of the bitter diplomatic showdowns that preceded military action in Iraq and Kosovo. According to Russian officials, such attacks are never acceptable.
Washington’s statements threatening unilateral military force against Syria are unacceptable, says Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Alexander Lukashevich.
Given the lack of evidence, any unilateral military action bypassing the UN Security Council – "no matter how limited it is" – would be a direct violation of international law and would undermine the prospects for a political and diplomatic solution to the conflict in Syria and will lead to a new round of confrontation and victims, Lukashevich concludes.
"Instead of executing the decisions of G8’s summit in Lough Erne and subsequent agreements to submit comprehensive report from experts investigating possible cases of use of chemical weapons in Syria to the UN Security Council, in the absence of any evidence, we hear threats of a strike on Syria," the statement reads.
Lukashevich emphasizes that even "US allies" are calling for restraint until the UN chemical experts complete their work "in order to get an unbiased picture of what really happened and decide on further steps in terms of the Syrian crisis".
Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council may have to wait as long as two weeks before reviewing the final results of the analysis of samples taken from the site where chemical weapons were used in Syria, diplomats told Reuters on Friday. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon told representatives from China, Russia, the United States, Britain, and France, warning them of the time period on the eve of a possible US missile strike on the Syrian regime.
Russia on Friday welcomed the British parliament's rejection of military action against the Syrian regime and warned that such an attack without UN approval would deal a major blow to the existing world order.
President Vladimir Putin's chief foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov said the British vote showed growing public understanding of the dangers of an attack against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
"This reflects the opinion of the majority of British and Europeans," Ushakov told reporters.
"It seems to me that people are starting to understand how dangerous such scenarios are," he said,
He added that military strikes on Syria without UN Security Council approval would damage the existing world order which is based around the Council where Russia has permanent membership.
"Such actions bypassing the UN Security Council - if they take place of course - will inflict huge damage to the system based on the central role of the UN," Ushakov said.
"They will deal a serious blow to the entire system of world order. And it is unlikely the situation in Syria itself and the Middle East will become more stable and calmer," he added.
Ushakov also complained Washington has not shared its intelligence that according to the United States implicates Assad's regime in an alleged chemical attack outside Damascus which activists say killed hundreds.
"They (US officials) are referring to the classified nature of the information. So someone apparently believes it but we - not having this information - we do not believe it," he added.
Kremlin official called into question principles of UN chemical arms experts' work in Syria.
"It is not entirely clear why they all should simultaneously return to The Hague when lots of questions remain unanswered concerning the possible use of chemical weapons. They are currently investigating only one such instance - the one that occurred on August 21," Russian presidential aide Yury Ushakov said.
Voice of Russia, AFP, Interfax, Reuters