Kerry says NATO needs plan for Syrian chemical weapons

Planning for Syria contingencies is "an appropriate undertaking for the Alliance”

From Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times:  Secretary of State John F. Kerry urged nervous NATO allies to begin considering how they would respond if the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons in its civil war.

Though NATO officials insist they are far from any military involvement in the 2-year-old conflict, Kerry told officials of the Western military alliance Tuesday that they needed to “carefully and collectively consider how NATO is prepared to respond to protect its members from a Syrian threat, including any potential chemical weapons threat.”

He noted that the alliance has already begun planning for Syria contingencies, and declared that such preparation was “an appropriate undertaking for the alliance.”

Kerry’s remarks to the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s political arm, came when the alliance is deeply conflicted over the war, alarmed at the mounting civilian casualties but eager to minimize any involvement in yet another conflict in the Middle East. NATO officials have insisted to reporters before this week’s ministerial gathering that they would not make any decisions at the session that would take them closer to a military role.

And Kerry emphasized again that the U.S. goal is to solve the conflict through negotiations among the opposition and the regime, once its leader, President Bashar Assad, is dislodged from his post. . . .

From Matthew Lee and Don Melvin, APLater in the day, Kerry appeared to try to soften his earlier remarks, saying he had no way of knowing what the facts were.

"I didn’t ask for additional planning," he said. "I think it might have been the secretary general or somebody who commented that we may need to do some additional planning. But there is no specific request. What there was from me was a very clear statement about the threat of chemical weapons and the potential for chemical weapons generically to fall into bad hands."  (photo: NATO)

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