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NATO Chief Backs US Threat of Force Against Syria

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says the United States should keep up its threat of military action against Syria so as to push forward a deal to end Syria's chemical weapons program.

Rasmussen says it was the threat of a U.S. missile strike that forced Syria into agreeing on a framework to destroy its chemical weapons, so there is no reason to remove that threat.

"The military option should stay on the table because it will facilitate continued momentum in that political process," he said.

In an interview with VOA at the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, Rasmussen called for strong Security Council action to enforce the plan to eliminate or remove 1,000 metric tons of Syrian chemical weapons by the middle of next year.

"Now I urge the Security Council to adopt a firm and binding resolution that can create the framework for a swift, secure, and verifiable elimination of all chemical weapons in Syria," he said.

Russia is resisting U.S., French, and British efforts to include language in a resolution imposing consequences on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad if he fails to comply with the chemical weapons deal. Consequences under a Chapter Seven U.N. resolution could be sanctions or force.

NATO has air defense missiles in Turkey guarding against cross-border Syrian air strikes, but Rasmussen does not foresee the alliance taking a more active role in the Syrian crisis beyond what individual members might contribute to the chemical weapons plan.

On Afghanistan, Rasmussen says he is confident that next year's presidential election can take place in a secure environment ahead of the withdrawal of NATO forces by the end of 2014.