Friday, June 22, 2012

Panetta: 'Not time to arm Syrians'

"... U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta defended the Obama administration’s decision not to arm the Syrian opposition, saying the country risked being pushed into an all-out civil war if efforts to secure a smooth political transition fail.“We made a decision not to provide lethal assistance at this point. I know others have made their own decisions,” Panetta said in an interview on Thursday.“But I think it’s very important right now that everybody focus on a smooth and responsible political transition,” he said.“If we don’t get this done in a responsible way, there’s a real danger that the situation there could deteriorate into a terrible civil war.”The defense secretary also said the United States was concerned about the possibility that shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, known as MANPADs, stolen from Libya last year during the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, could make their way to Syria. He cautioned, however, that he had seen no direct intelligence yet to confirm those fears.Panetta also expressed confidence that Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles were not at risk...."

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