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U.S. still aims to act with allies on Syria: Hagel

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel testifies at a Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing on "Department Leadership." on Capit
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel testifies at a Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing on "Department Leadership." on Capit

MANILA (Reuters) - The United States will continue to seek out an international coalition to act together on Syria, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Friday, after Britain's parliament rejected military action.

"It is the goal of President (Barack) Obama and our government ... whatever decision is taken, that it be an international collaboration and effort," Hagel said during a trip to the Philippines, adding that the United States would continue to consult with Britain.

"Our approach is to continue to find an international coalition that will act together. And I think you're seeing a number of countries state, publicly state, their position on the use of chemical weapons."

Hagel said he would not "speculate on hypothetical situations" when asked whether there was anything Assad could do at this late stage to halt the threat of military action.

"I have not been informed of any change in the Assad regime's position on any issue. So, I deal with the reality of what we have," he said.

In a briefing with senior lawmakers on Thursday, Obama administration officials said they had "no doubt" chemical weapons were used in Syria and that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government had used them, U.S. Representative Eliot Engel, who participated in the call, told Reuters.

Hagel, who participated in the call, said "the objective of the call today was not to convince anyone of anything."

"The objective was to give the leaders of the Congress an update on our thinking and where we are on this issue and just as importantly seek their advice, to seek their opinions on a way forward."

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Eric Walsh)

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