Panetta defends cautious US approach toward Syria

March 7, 2012 22:55


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WASHINGTON - US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday defended US caution in trying to end the ongoing violence in Syria, despite biting criticism from lawmakers who questioned how many people would have to die before the Obama administration used force.

Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both told the Senate Armed Services Committee that US intelligence agencies believed it was just a matter of time before Syrian leader Bashar Assad was ousted from power.

"Their view is that the state of this insurgency is so deep right now ... that ultimately he will fall one way or another," Panetta said. But some senators questioned if the administration was using that assessment to justify its slow response.

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