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Kerry Criticizes Effort to Stem Refugee Flow Into US

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at the 30th annual Overseas Security Advisory Council briefing at the State Department in Washington, Nov. 18, 2015.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday responded to criticism from U.S. lawmakers, governors and presidential candidates questioning the Obama administration’s ability to safely process Syrian refugees.

He commented at a State Department forum on overseas security, a day after House Speaker Paul Ryan called for a pause in a U.S. plan to admit as many as 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year.

Kerry asked how anyone could say that a 50-year-old woman with her grandchildren were suddenly going to be seen as threats, or that the United States could not process people adequately to keep faith with its values.

Ryan said he was also seeking tougher verification requirements for Syrian and Iraqi refugees, after investigators in Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris found evidence that one attacker might have slipped into Europe with Syrian refugees.

More than two dozen U.S. governors also responded by saying they would take steps to block Syrian refugees from resettling in their states.

Also speaking at the State Department forum, CIA Director John Brennan said the United States needed to strike a balance between a commitment to American values and security.

On Saturday, Kerry joined officials from 20 world powers in Vienna in agreeing on a broad timetable for talks among Syrian government representatives and the opposition, as well as constitutional reforms that would lead to U.N.-monitored elections. Kerry said unity within the Syrian government was a critical component for defeating Islamic State.

As the political process unfolds, U.S.-led coalition airstrikes continue in Syria and Iraq.