BRUSSELS-It is crucial to keep the military option on the table in dealing with the Syria crisis, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Thursday.

"I think it is essential for keeping momentum in the diplomatic and political process that the military option is still on the table," Rasmussen said at an event organized by the Carnegie Europe think-tank.

"I think, irrespective of the outcome of the deliberations in the UN Security Council, the military option will still be on the table."

NATO's secretary-general said in early September that he had seen evidence convincing him Syrian authorities were behind a sarin gas attack on Aug. 21 that killed more than 1,400 people and said it would send a "dangerous signal to dictators" if the world did not respond firmly.

Crisis in Syria - full JPost.com coverage

However, Rasmussen said it was up to individual NATO countries to decide how they would respond to the attack and he did not envisage any NATO role beyond existing plans to defend NATO member Turkey, which borders Syria.

He said there was "agreement that we need a firm international response 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."

"If a response to what has happened in Syria were to be a military operation, I'd envisage a very short, measured, targeted operation, and you don't need the NATO command and control system to conduct such a short, measured, tailored, military operation," he also said.

In March, a NATO official had said "NATO has no intention to intervene militarily in Syria." The insurgents have few weapons to counter Assad's helicopter gunships and warplanes, and therefore the United Stated would have to play the key role in military intervention.

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