The United Nations has warned Barack Obama that the US should not carry out "punitive" strikes against Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons. Reported by the Associated Press, Ban Ki Moon said an attack to punish Syria would "unleash more turmoil", adding that the UN Charter made illegal any military action unless in self defense or approved by the Security Council.

The announcement will be a blow for the White House, who are seeking to gain congressional approval for a strike. Speaking during a meeting with congressional leaders on Tuesday, Obama described the proposed strike as "proportional and limited".

"This is not Iraq and this is not Afghanistan,” he assured. “The military plan that has been developed by our joint chiefs, and that I believe is appropriate, is proportional, it is limited, it does not involve boots on the ground.

"This is a limited proportional step that will send a clear message not only to the Assad regime but also to other countries that may be interested in testing some of these international norms that there are consequences.

"It gives us the opportunity to degrade Assad's capabilities when it comes to chemical weapons. It also fits into a broader strategy that we have to make sure that we can bring about over time the kind of strengthening of the opposition and the diplomatic and economic and political pressure required so that ultimately we have a transition that can bring peace and stability, not only to Syria but to the region."

ban ki moon

Ban Ki Moon has warned the Washington not to attack Syria

On Tuesday afternoon, House Speaker John Boehner, a man so often a hindrance to the President, said that he would back the administration’s plans to attack the Syrian regime.

"I'm going to support the president's call for action. I believe my colleagues should support this call for action," Boehner said following a meeting with the president and members of congress. "We have enemies around the world that need to understand that we're not going to tolerate this type of behaviour."

Less surprising was the support of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Following the meeting, she said: "President Obama did not draw the red line… humanity drew it decades ago."

On Tuesday, French President Francois Hollande said that he was awaiting the result of the congressional vote, adding that France would not act against the Syrian regime alone. The French parliament is scheduled to debate the Syrian conflict on Wednesday however no vote is expected.

Earlier, David Cameron confirmed that there would be no second vote in Parliament on the proposed use of British forces against the Syrian regime. The Prime Minister suffered a humiliating defeat in a Commons vote last week, effectively ending the possibility of British military involvement. However, Cameron has pledged to "lead the world" in ensuring humanitarian aid gets through to the people of Syria.

john boehner

John Boehner urged Congress to support the President

More from the Press Association:

William Hague announced that the president of the opposition Syrian National Coalition will visit London on Thursday to discuss humanitarian efforts as well as the drive to secure a peace conference in Geneva. He played down suggestions in the US that Obama was planning a wider-than-expected intervention aimed at aiding opposition forces fighting the Assad regime as well as deterring the use of chemical weapons.

"I don't believe that to be the intention of the United States," Hague told the Commons. "President Obama is very clear that any action proposed by the United States would be to deter the further use of chemical weapons and I think we can take him at his word on that."

Tensions in the region were heightened further by Russian reports that two "ballistic objects" had been fired in the eastern Mediterranean in the early hours of this morning. Israel later confirmed that it had conducted a test of its US-funded Ankor missile system.

Obama's decision to put the question of US military action to a vote in Congress has prompted pressure on Cameron to ask MPs to reconsider last week's vote.

Conservative mayor of London Boris Johnson told LBC 97.3 radio that it was "appropriate" to look at any new evidence and the detail of US plans. If they were coherent, limited and would deliver a "plausible outcome", he said it would be "reasonable in those circumstances for Parliament to think again".

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond appeared on Monday to hold the door open for a second vote in the case of "very significant" changes on the ground. But following a discussion of Syria in Cabinet this morning, Downing Street denied any suggestion of a split within the Government.

Cameron's official spokesman said the Prime MInister would be a "very full participant" in debates on Syria on the margins of the G20 summit. "It is about trying to ensure that there is as robust as possible an international response to the use of chemical weapons," the spokesman said. "It is also about seeking to continue the diplomatic process whose objective is a political transition.

"It is no secret that a number of countries don't share our approach in a number of key respects, but that doesn't mean that we don't keep working with them and others to try to bring about what I have described."

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said the UK should press Russia to include Syria on the G20 agenda, ensure the UK special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi was invited and seek the creation of a Syria Contact Group to include Iran and Saudi Arabia.

"The scale of the suffering in Syria demands a more active diplomatic engagement ahead of this week's summit," said Alexander.

More than 97% of Syria's refugees are hosted by countries in the immediate surrounding region, which urgently need massive international support to help them deal with the crisis, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.

With an average of almost 5,000 Syrians fleeing into neighbouring countries every day, the need to increase significantly humanitarian aid and development support to host communities has reached a critical stage.

Ministers from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey will hold a meeting with UNHCR in Geneva to accelerate international support.

Guterres said: "Syria has become the great tragedy of this century - a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history.

"The only solace is the humanity shown by the neighbouring countries in welcoming and saving the lives of so many refugees."
Aid agencies said the humanitarian response to the crisis was "stretched to the limit" and "dangerously underfunded".

The Prime Minister's spokesman played down the prospect of holding a Commons vote on arming the rebels - but stopped short of ruling it out.

"No decision has been made to do that (arm the rebels)," he said. "That has been the position for a very long time."

The spokesman said last week's debate and vote "was very specifically a response to the August 21 chemical weapons attack".

The possibility of arming the rebels was not raised in Cabinet this morning, he added.

Syrian National Coalition president Ahmed Asi Al Jarba will arrive in the UK with a senior delegation tomorrow and hold talks with Hague on September 5, said the Foreign Office. He is also due to meet International Development Minister Alan Duncan and Commons Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Richard Ottaway as well as addressing MPs at a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

The UK recognises the SNC as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people. A Foreign Office spokesman said: "This visit comes at a critical time. It is an opportunity to underline our support for the Coalition as we seek a negotiated political solution.

"This visit will also allow the National Coalition to outline their plans for delivery on the ground in areas under their control. We are committed to supporting this and will discuss with the Coalition how we might step up our practical support."

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  • Syrian refugee, Ahmed al Delly, 59, from Daraa in Syria, reacts as he speaks about his wife, four sons, and two daughters, who are still in Daraa but he has had no contact with them, after the prayer of Eid al-Fitr, that marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, at Zaatari Syrian refugee camp, in Mafraq, Jordan, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013. (AP photo/Mohammad Hannon)

  • This image provided by Shaam News Network on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show mourners next to bodies of victims of an attack on Ghouta, Syria on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network)

  • This image provided by by Shaam News Network on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show several bodies being buried in a suburb of Damascus, Syria during a funeral on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network)

  • Columns of smoke rising from heavy shelling in the Jobar neighborhood in west Damascus, in Cairo, Syria, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • In this citizen journalism image provided by the Media Office Of Douma City, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a Syrian man mourns over a dead body after an alleged poisonous gas attack fired by regime forces, according to activists, in Douma town, Damascus, Syria on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Media Office Of Douma City)

  • Syrian refugees cross into Iraq at the Peshkhabour border point in Dahuk, 260 miles (430 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

  • This citizen journalism image provided by the Local Committee of Arbeen which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows a Syrian man reacts as he carries a dead body of a Syrian girl, after an alleged poisonous gas attack fired by regime forces, according to activists in Arbeen town, Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Local Committee of Arbeen)

  • This citizen journalism image provided by the Local Committee of Arbeen which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Syrian citizens trying to identify dead bodies, after an alleged poisonous gas attack fired by regime forces, according to activists in Arbeen town, Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Local Committee of Arbeen)

  • This citizen journalism image provided by the Local Committee of Arbeen which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows dead bodies of Syrian citizens in Arbeen town, Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Local Committee of Arbeen)

  • A Syrian family sits in a tent at Kawergost refugee camp in Irbil, 217 miles (350 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

  • Syrian refugees stand in a queue to receive free food at Kawergost refugee camp in Irbil, 217 miles (350 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

  • Syrian refugees wait to receive a tent at Kawergost refugee camp in Irbil, 217 miles (350 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

  • Syrian refugees wait to receive a tent at Kawergost refugee camp in Irbil, 217 miles (350 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

  • Syrian refugees gather for food aid at Kawergost refugee camp in Irbil, 217 miles (350 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

  • Syrian refugees wait for food aid at Kawergost refugee camp in Irbil, 217 miles (350 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

  • A Syrian military soldier holds his AK-47 with a sticker of Syrian President Bashar Assad as he stands guard at a check point on Baghdad street, in Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • A Syrian military soldier holds his AK-47 with a sticker of Syrian President Bashar Assad and Arabic that reads, "Syria is fine," as he stands guard at a check point on Baghdad street, in Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • This citizen journalism image provided by the Local Committee of Arbeen which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows a Syrian man receiving treatment, in Arbeen town, Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Local Committee of Arbeen)

  • Syrian refugees cross into Iraq at the Peshkhabour border point in Dahuk, 260 miles (430 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

  • Syrian refugees cross into Iraq at the Peshkhabour border point in Dahuk, 260 miles (430 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

  • A general view of the Kawergost refugee camp in Irbil, 217 miles (350 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

  • In this image taken from video posted by Ugarit News, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show a fireball from an explosion at a weapons depot set off by rocket attacks that struck government-held districts in the central Syrian city of Homs on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Ugarit News via AP video)

  • Syrian refugees gather for food aid after cross into Iraq at the Peshkhabour border point in Dahuk, 260 miles (430 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

  • In this image taken from video obtained from the Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a Syrian man comforts a child injured by a missile strike in Raqqa, Syria, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)

  • Syrian refugees cross into Iraq at the Peshkhabour border point in Dahuk, 260 miles (430 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

  • In this citizen journalism Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, image provided by Aleppo Media Center AMC, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, buildings are seen damaged from the shelling of Syrian forces at Karm al-Jabal area in Aleppo province, Syria. (AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center, AMC)

  • In this citizen journalism Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, image provided by Aleppo Media Center AMC, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, Syrian rebels open fire as they battle against the Syrian forces in Aleppo, Syria. (AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center, AMC)

  • In this image released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a Syrian army soldier stands behind his machine gun during a battle against the Syrian rebels at an unidentified location in Latakia province, Syria, Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013. (AP Photo/SANA)

  • In this image taken from video obtained from the Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a Syrian man carries an injured child away from a missile strike in Raqqa, Syria, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)

  • In this image released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a Syrian forces tank fires during a battle against the Syrian rebels at an unidentified location in Latakia province, Syria, Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013. (AP Photo/SANA)

  • In this image taken from Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013, video obtained from the Sham News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a rebel fighter fires a gun in a valley in an unidentified location in Latakia province, Syria. (AP Photo/Sham News Network via AP video)

  • Mansour Mahameed, 26, from Daraa city in Syria, a former Free Syrian Army fighter who lost his leg last March after the Syrian troops bombing, prepares to sit for the Eid al-Fitr prayer that marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan at Zaatari Syrian refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)

  • Syrian refugees cross into Iraq at the Peshkhabour border point in Dahuk, 260 miles (430 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

  • In this image taken from video obtained from the Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a Syrian man carries an injured child away from a missile strike in Raqqa, Syria, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)

  • In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, dead bodies of Syrian rebels are seen on the ground, killed during ambush by Syrian forces near the Damascus suburb of Adra, Syria, Wednesday Aug. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/SANA)

  • In this image taken from video posted by Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show a fireball from an explosion at a weapons depot set off by rocket attacks that struck government-held districts in the central Syrian city of Homs on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)

  • This image posted on the official Facebook page of the Syrian Presidency on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013 purports to show Syrian President Bashar Assad shaking hands with a soldier during Syrian Arab Army day in Darya, Syria. (AP Photo/Syrian Presidency via Facebook)

  • This image posted on the official Facebook page of the Syrian Presidency on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013 purports to show Syrian President Bashar Assad walking with soldiers with during Syrian Arab Army day in Darya, Syria. (AP Photo/Syrian Presidency via Facebook)

  • In this image taken from video obtained from the Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a Syrian youths run away from the scene of a missile strike in Raqqa, Syria, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)