U.S. on Syria: 'We are ready to go, like that'

Damascus, Syria (CNN) -- Syria's foreign minister struck a defiant tone Tuesday amid growing international calls for a military response to the country's suspected use of chemical weapons, denying his nation is hindering inspectors and warning Western leaders against an attack.

"Syria is not easy to swallow," Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said Tuesday at a news conference. "We have the materials to defend ourselves. We will surprise others."

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A Syrian soldier takes position during a patrol in a rural area of Damascus in an undated photo (Courtesy LA Times Via Syrian News Agency)

Days after the United States moved warships armed with cruise missiles into the region, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told the BBC on Tuesday that forces were ready to carry out a strike if ordered.

"The options are there, the United States Department of Defense is ready to carry out those options," Hagel told BBC.

"We are ready to go, like that," he said, referring to the military's capability to carry out a strike immediately.

A senior Defense Department official told CNN that any strike could be completed "within several days."

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