US defense chief will not discuss 'critical' Syria memo

WASHINGTON - US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel stressed the need for honesty in internal government discussions on Thursday as he declined comment on a two-page internal memo he wrote on Syria policy, described as critical by people familiar with its contents.
The memo from Hagel to White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice was first reported by the New York Times, which said he warned President Barack Obama's Syria policy was in jeopardy due to its failure to clarify its intentions toward Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Two people familiar with its contents, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters they agreed with the description of the memo by the Times as critical.
Asked about the memo, Hagel told a Pentagon news conference: "We owe the president and we owe the National Security Council our best thinking on this."
"And it has to be honest and it has to be direct," Hagel said, without citing areas of disagreement.
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