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Syria Questions Loom as Hagel Tours Asia

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, second from right, stands next to Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro during a welcome ceremony prior to their meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, Aug. 26, 2013.
During a four-nation tour of Asia to bolster regional ties, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s is averting questions about possible intervention in Syria.

After meeting with his Indonesian counterpart Purnomo Yusgiantoro in Jakarta on Monday, Hagel declined to say what actions are being weighed by the White House.

“The United States is looking at all options regarding the situation in Syria," he said. "We're working with our allies and the international community.”

Following allegations of chemical weapons attacks, there is mounting international pressure to address Syria’s protracted conflict, but Hagel said the United States will not act unilaterally.

“We are analyzing the intelligence and we will get the facts," he said. "And if there is any action taken, it will be in concert with the international community and within the framework of legal justification.”

As the U.S. deliberates its actions on Syria, Hagel also stressed the importance of deepening military ties with Indonesia.

A key strategic partner in the region, relations between the Indonesian and U.S. military have been frosty in the past. A military embargo enacted because of alleged human rights abuses in East Timor and West Papua was only lifted in 2010.

Hagel on Monday announced that the United States had decided to sell eight Apache helicopters to Indonesia for $500 million. The deal, which has been discussed for more than a year, is part of Indonesia’s efforts to upgrade its weaponry.

Hagel is scheduled to travel to Brunei Tuesday to meet with defense ministers from across the Asia Pacific region.