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Russia warns US not to attack Syria

Russia warns US about the consequences of attacking Syria in order to punish it for using chemical weapons. The US and is allies are drafting plans for an attack, apparently giving little heed to Russia's warning.

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"The recent flurry of consultations between Washington and its allies indicates that they have put the arrow on the bowstring and would shoot even without a U.N. mandate," the Xinhua agency said. "That would be irresponsible and dangerous."

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DAMASCENES ANXIOUS

The continued presence of United Nations experts in Damascus may be a factor holding back international military action.

A U.N. statement said the investigators had put off a second visit to the affected areas until Wednesday to prepare better.

Some residents of the capital are getting anxious.

"I've always been a supporter of foreign intervention but now that it seems like a reality, I've been worrying that my family could be hurt or killed because they live near a military installation," said one woman, Zaina, who opposes Assad.

"I'm afraid of a military strike now."

But another woman who supports the president but did not want her name published said she refused to let herself worry:

"Bombing, kidnapping, killing - we face it every day already," she told Reuters.

"If it brings an end to this faster, frankly I'd welcome it. But honestly I don't really believe the Americans will do it."

The Washington Post cited senior U.S. officials as saying Obama is weighing a military strike that would be of limited scope and duration, while keeping the United States out of deeper involvement in the civil war.

Such an attack would probably last no more than two days and see cruise missiles launched from ships - or, possibly, long-range aircraft - striking military targets not directly related to Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, the newspaper said.

Such a move was, it said, dependent on three factors: completion of an intelligence report assessing the Syrian government's culpability in the chemical attack, consultation with allies and the U.S. Congress, and determination of a justification under international law. U.S. warships armed with cruise missiles are already positioned in the Mediterranean.

Opposition activists have said at least 500 people and possibly twice that many were killed when rockets laden with poison, possibly the nerve gas sarin or something similar, landed in areas around Damascus where rebels are holding out in the face of heavy bombardments by government forces.

If confirmed, it would be the worst chemical weapons attack since Saddam Hussein gassed thousands of Iraqi Kurds in 1988.

In Israel, citizens have been queuing up for gas masks in case Assad responds to a Western attack by firing on Israel, as Iraq's Saddam did in 1991. (Additional reporting by Mariam Karouny in Beirut, Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Amman, Andrew Osborn in London, John Irish in Paris, Timothy Heritage in Moscow, Ben Blanchard in Beijing, Seda Sezer and Daren Butler in Istanbul, Yeganeh Torbati in Dubai and Lesley Wroughton, Steve Holland and Paul Eckert in Washington; Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Will Waterman)

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