- The Washington Times - Monday, September 2, 2013

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Monday that he was “convinced” President Bashar Assad’s forces had unleashed chemical weapons on rebel fighters and that the international community should respond with a strong message.

Specifically, he said at a news conference that the global community should give a “firm” response but did not offer up further definition, The Times of Israel reported.

“I have been presented with concrete information and, without going into details, I can tell you personally I am convinced, not only that a chemical attack has taken place … but I am also convinced that the Syrian regime is responsible,” Mr. Rasmussen said, in The Times of Israel.

He also said “a firm international response [is needed] in order to avoid that chemical attacks take place in the future. It would send, I would say, a dangerous signal to dictators all over the world if we stand idly by and don’t react.”

His comment is a sharp contrast to Russia’s, which just said the opposite — that Russian authorities aren’t sure of the proof of chemical weapon attack. Mr. Rasmussen’s comment also came just a couple days after President Obama stepped down his sharp rhetoric about the need for the United States to enter Syria with military force. Now, Congress will decide the level of U.S. involvement, and that could take up to two weeks, political analysts estimate.

Even though Mr. Rasmussen’s rhetoric was strong, he still maintained that NATO would not participate in any military action. He said that the international body would, however, remain a strong defender of Turkish interests, in case that country came under attack during any Syrian escalation, The Times of Israel reported.

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