The U.S. would call off its plans for a strike if Damascus handed over its chemical weapons by next week, said Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday. However, the U.S. State Department later issued a clarification that “Kerry was making a rhetorical argument about the one-week deadline and unlikelihood of Assad turning over Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile”.

Mr. Kerry was in London, his last stop on a whirlwind European tour to canvas support on the Syria issue. Briefing the media on the Syria issue alongside U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague, Mr. Kerry said that the evidence with his government of the Assad regime having perpetrated the attack was “powerful”, and in this situation “The risk of not acting is greater than the risk of acting.” Speaking via the media to a British public sceptical of war Mr. Kerry said “Some people who question the evidence worry that in the post-Iraq moment we are not going to be confronting a pre-Iraq presentation. I understand that fear.”

His government has therefore declassified much more intelligence information than is usually done in such situations, he said. “We are not talking about war, we are not going to war” Mr. Kerry said. Instead it would be “a very limited, very targeted, very short-term effort that degrades his capacity to deliver chemical weapons without assuming responsibility for Syria’s civil war. That is exactly what we are talking about doing — unbelievably small, limited kind of effort”.

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