Prepare for Syrian chemical weapons, John Kerry tells NATO



Washington: US Secretary of State John Kerry has called on the NATO to prepare for the possible use of chemical weapons by Syria in the ongoing civil war there.

"We should also carefully and collectively consider how NATO is prepared to respond to protect its members from a Syrian threat, including any potential chemical weapons threat," Kerry said at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.

On Tuesday, Israel's top military intelligence analyst, Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, said Syrian government forces had used chemical weapons against rebels trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

Kerry said NATO should have contingency plans to guard against the threat of chemical weapons.

NATO has deployed Patriot anti-missile batteries in Turkey, which borders Syria and is a NATO member, after artillery fire from Syria hit several Turkish villages.

US President Barack Obama has said that the use of chemical weapons in Syria is a red line that would trigger further action from the US.

Kerry also met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Brussels Tuesday, and thanked Lavrov for Russian President Vladimir Putin's statement of condolence to the US after the bombings at the Boston Marathon.

Russia, which has long fought Islamic separatists in Chechnya, had alerted US officials in 2011 to possible extremist links to one of the suspected bombers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Also at the NATO meeting in Brussels Tuesday, Kerry signed an agreement with Lithuania to work together to combat nuclear terrorism and the illegal smuggling of nuclear and radioactive materials and related technologies.

"This will keep nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists, out of bad actors, it's a very important step," Kerry said.

The nuclear smuggling pact is aimed at helping Lithuania's ability to prevent, detect and respond to nuclear smuggling incidents.

Several European countries have already signed similar nuclear smuggling agreements with the US, including Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Slovakia and Uzbekistan.

IANS