A strike by Western forces had appeared imminent but US allies were increasingly reluctant to act before hearing the results of a UN probe into the alleged poisonous gas attacks in the war-torn country on August 21. (Agencies)
We have not yet made a decision: Obama
President Barack Obama has said he had not yet decided whether to attack Syria in response to alleged use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, but a strike still appeared likely as the US stopped seeking a UN mandate.
"We have not yet made a decision, but the international norm against the use of chemical weapons needs to be kept in place. Hardly anybody disputes that chemical weapons were used on a large scale in Syria against civilian populations," Obama said in an interview.
Will wait for UN report: Cameron
British Prime Minister David Cameron backed down and agreed to delay a military attack on Syria following a growing revolt over the UK's rushed response to the crisis.
The Prime Minister has now said he will wait for a report by UN weapons inspectors before seeking the approval of MPs for "direct British involvement" in the Syrian intervention.
Downing Street said the decision to wait for the UN was based on the "deep concerns" the country still harbours over the Iraq War.
UN chief pleads for more time
UN chief Ban Ki-moon pleaded for more time for diplomacy and to allow UN investigators to complete their probe on suspected chemical weapons attacks. He said the investigators will leave Syria by Saturday morning.
"Diplomacy should be given a chance...peace (should) be given a chance," Ban said in Vienna.
"The use of chemical weapons by anyone, for any reason, under any circumstances, is a crime against humanity and that must be held accountable for," he said.
Assad remains defiant
Meanwhile, President Assad remained defiant amid heightened tensions, saying "Since the start of the crisis, as you know, we have waited for our true enemy to reveal itself."
"I know that your morale is good and that you are ready to face any attack and to save the homeland," a newspaper quoted Assad as telling Syrian officials.
"It's a historic confrontation from which we will emerge victorious," the paper quoted him as saying.
Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi had accused Western countries of "inventing" excuses to take military action against his country.
"Western countries, starting with the United States, are inventing fake scenarios and fictitious alibis to intervene militarily in Syria," he was quoted as saying by state television.
Syria would become "graveyard of the invaders": Halqi
Halqi said his country would become a "graveyard of the invaders" if there were a military intervention.
"Syria... will surprise the aggressors as it surprised them during" the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in which Arab forces carried out a sneak attack on Israel.
Russia, Iran warn against military strike
Russia and Iran, key allies of Syria, again reiterated their warning against any Western intervention in the civil war. They said that such a strike could set off a wider regional conflict.
With a Western intervention imminent there were signs of growing fears across the wider region.
At least 6,000 Syrians crossed into Lebanon in a 24-hour period, including an estimated 4,000 according to Lebanese security officials.
Israel has already authorised a partial call-up of army reservists while Turkey has put its forces on heightened "vigilance".
UK dispatch jets in Cyprus
Britain has dispatched six RAF Typhoon jets to its base in Cyprus as part of a "contingency" plan to ensure the protection of interests amid heightened tensions over Syria, the Ministry of Defence said.
The MoD said the jets are being dispatched to Akrotiri in Cyprus as a "prudent and precautionary measure", adding that they are not being deployed to take part in a military strike against Syria.
"We can confirm that as part of ongoing contingency planning, six RAF Typhoon interceptor fast jets are deploying this morning to Akrotiri in Cyprus," a ministry spokesman said.
A strike by Western forces had appeared imminent but US allies were increasingly reluctant to act before hearing the results of a UN probe into the alleged poisonous gas attacks in the war-torn country on August 21.