They were pictures that shocked the world-- the aftermath of a reported chemical attack in Syria.

Now US sources say the response could come within days.

Syrian Foreign minister Walid Maualem dismisses such talk.

(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SYRIAN FOREIGN MINISTER, WALID MOUALEM, SAYING:

"There is no analytical logic that says a strike will happen. I doubt that a country like the United States would do this as a service to the al-Nusra front in Syria. Otherwise all their culture and counter-terrorism claims since September 11 and even before then until now will crash."

He says Western leaders are "delusional" if they think action will help rebels reach a balance of power in Syria.

(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SYRIAN FOREIGN MINISTER, WALID MOUALEM, SAYING:

"We will remain firm and that is why re-establishing balance is delusional and not possible at all."

London-based military analyst Malcolm Chambers of the Royal United Services Institute says the West must tred a fine line.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR MALCOLM CHAMBERS, RESEARCH DIRECTOR SPECIALISING IN UK DEFENSE POLICY, RUSI, SAYING:

"I think the dilemma for those drawing up target lists for the United States and its allies, will be this has to be a substantial enough strike to send a clear message to President Assad that the use of chemical weapons carries consequences which are so significant that he will not be tempted to use chemical weapons again but they should not be so substantial that they are seen as an attempt to change the regime."

How an intervention, likely to be limited to air strikes, would affect the course of Syria's war is still far from clear.

 

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