By ELAINE GANLEY
PARIS (AP) -- French President Francois Hollande expressed readiness Friday to push ahead with plans to strike Syria for allegedly using chemical weapons despite the British parliament's rejection of military action. Washington also was preparing for the possibility of a strike against the Damascus regime within days.
"The chemical massacre of Damascus cannot and must not remain unpunished," Hollande said in an interview with the newspaper Le Monde, published Friday, as U.N. experts in Damascus began what is expected to be the last day of their probe into the alleged attack.
The French president reiterated that France wants a "proportional and firm action."' When asked about the type of intervention, however, he said "all options are on the table."
Hollande suggested that action could even come ahead of Wednesday's extraordinary session of the French Parliament, called to discuss the Syria situation; lawmakers' approval is not needed for Hollande to order military action.
"I will not take a decision before having all the elements that would justify it," he told Le Monde. However, noting that he had convened parliament, he added: "And if I have (already) committed France, the government will inform (lawmakers) of the means and objectives."
The British parliament voted late Thursday against military action in Syria, whittling down the core of the planned coalition to the United States and France. Italy and Germany have said they won't take part in any military action.
The British `no' vote raised questions about France's participation -- and ratcheted up pressure on U.S. President Barack Obama, who is also facing domestic skepticism about military intervention in Syria.
Amid the resistance, the U.S. administration shared intelligence with lawmakers Thursday aimed at convincing them the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its people and must be punished.
Obama appeared undeterred by the difficulties forming an international coalition, and advisers said he would be willing to retaliate against Syria on his own.
"The president of the United States is elected with the duty to protect the national security interests in the United States of America," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
France has more intimate ties to Syria, having once ruled the country; it also has warplanes and strategic interest in the region. Paris has embraced the Syrian opposition and urged a firm response against Assad over the purported Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack outside Damascus. But Hollande appears to be facing increasing political and public resistance against moving against Syria quickly.
SYRIA: U.N. experts began what is expected to be the last day of their investigation into the Aug. 21 attack. After an early morning delay, three U.N. vehicles left a Damascus hotel for more on-site visits. It was not immediately known where they were going.
RUSSIA: Presidential foreign policy advisor Yuri Ushakov expressed puzzlement over why the U.N. team was leaving so soon ``when there are many questions about a possible use of chemical weapons in other areas in Syria.'' He said Russia has not seen the U.S. intelligence that Washington claims proves the role of the Syrian government in last week's alleged chemical weapons attack.
BRITAIN: Treasury chief George Osborne warned that Britain should not turn its back on the world after the stunning parliamentary defeat of a government motion for military intervention in Syria. He told the BBC there will be ``national soul-searching'' about Britain's global role after the ``no'' vote.
GERMANY: German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Germany isn't considering joining military action against Syria and hasn't been asked by others to do so. Berlin has called for the international community to take a ``clear position'' following the alleged chemical attack, but has left open what exactly that might entail.
IRAN: Supporters of Assad planned a rally after Friday prayers at Tehran University. The demonstration was not directly backed by the Iranian government, which is a close Syria ally, but the protest would not be allowed to take place without permission from authorities.