John Kerry gives Syria week to hand over chemical weapons or face attack
US secretary of state tells London press conference with William Hague that US intelligence blames Assad regime for gas attack
Monday 9 September 2013
The US secretary of state has said that President Bashar al-Assad has one week to hand over his entire stock of chemical weapons to avoid a military attack. But John Kerry added that he had no expectation that the Syrian leader would comply.
Kerry also said he had no doubt that Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack in east Damascus on 21 August, saying that only three people are responsible for the chemical weapons inside Syria – Assad, one of his brothers and a senior general. He said the entire US intelligence community was united in believing Assad was responsible.
Kerry was speaking on Monday alongside the UK foreign secretary, William Hague, who was forced to deny that he had been pushed to the sidelines by the House of Commons decision 10 days ago to reject the use of UK force in Syria.
The US Senate is due to vote this week on whether to approve an attack and Kerry was ambivalent over whether Barack Obama would use his powers to ignore the legislative chamber, if it were to reject an attack.
The US state department stressed that Kerry was making a rhetorical argument about the one-week deadline and unlikelihood of Assad turning over Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile. In a statement, the department added: “His point was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons, otherwise he would have done so long ago. That’s why the world faces this moment.”