Prime Minister John Key won't rule out support for a military strike against Syria ahead of talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron, who is seeking support for intervention.
Mr Key was yesterday briefed by United Nations chief Ban Ki-Moon on Syria and UN inspectors' work to verify allegations President Bashar al-Assad's regime used chemical weapons against his own people.
"He left me under no illusions about the seriousness and the gravity of the situation.
"In terms of the loss of life that's taken place in Syria and the pictures that everyone has seen through their television sets, it's abhorrent. Frankly, it's a disgrace."
At the UN the five permanent members of the Security Council have failed to reach an agreement on a British proposal that would authorise the use of military force against Syria.
If put to a vote the proposal is likely to be vetoed by Russia and China.
Mr Key said New Zealand supported the proposal. "We think that's the right thing to do but we wouldn't hold our breath that that would receive the unanimous support that would be required."
While there remained a prospect of US and British action without a UN mandate, New Zealand's participation in a military intervention hadn't been requested so far by either nation.
"No one's asked us for any support at this point and our preference is (via) the United Nations, but let's see how things progress."
He didn't believe Mr Cameron was acting too rashly in pushing for action.
"He is, like everybody, deeply concerned about what he sees there. It's not just what has taken place that will be on their mind, it's what happens next and what happens if there's no response."
But Mr Key said experience in Iraq and Libya showed military intervention, particularly without the backing of the international community via the UN, was risky.
Labour foreign affairs spokesman Phil Goff said Mr Key needed to be "more forthcoming and frank with New Zealanders about what his actual thinking is".