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Kerry to Assad: Turn over chemical weapons to prevent strikes

6:41 AM, Sep 9, 2013   |    comments
Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at a news conference with Britain's Foreign Minister William Hague in London on Monday.(Photo: Susan Walsh AP)
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LONDON (USA TODAY)  - Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that Syrian President Bashar Assad would be able to prevent a military strike on his nation if he were to hand over "every single bit" of his chemical weapons to the international community within a week.

Kerry was speaking at a news conference in London with British Foreign Secretary William Hague. Kerry said he did not expect Assad to heed his call.

The comments came in response to a question from a journalist about U.S. intelligence on Syria.

Kerry was meeting with Hague to discuss the case for launching an attack on the chemical weapons stock of the Syrian regime, alleged to have carried out an illegal attack under international law in the suburbs of Damascus on Aug. 21.

During the joint news conference, Kerry said that the evidence implicating Assad's government was compelling. Kerry brushed aside Assad's denials, made in an interview with Charlie Rose of CBS News.

"We know that his regime gave orders to prepare for a chemical attack. We know they deployed forces," Kerry said.

"What does he offer?" Kerry asked of Assad. "Words that are contradicted by fact."

Kerry said that control of Syria's chemical weapons was restricted to the president, his brother and an unnamed general.

Referring to the British Parliament's failure to back military intervention in Syria and the so-called special relationship between the U.S. and U.K., Kerry said: "Our bond is bigger than one vote, bigger than one moment in history."

Kerry said the end of the conflict in Syria requires a political solution. We (the U.S). have no illusions about that."

Separately, Russian and Syrian foreign ministers said Monday they would push for the return of United Nations inspectors to Syria to continue their probe into the use of chemical weapons.

Meanwhile, President Obama will spend much of Monday with the media making the case for intervention in Syria to the American public ahead of a vote expected in Congress later this week.

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