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Leahy Speaks Out on Syrian Crisis

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AP/ Toby Talbot
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The Russians are never the best partners on things especially with President Putin but it is a step - Senator Patrick Leahy

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs the Senate's Foreign Appropriations Committee, says there is no doubt that an effort to remove chemical weapons from Syria through diplomatic and not military means is a better solution to the crisis, but he says it won't be easy.

“We’re still a long way from having this thing settled,” said Leahy. “The Russians are never the best partners on things especially with President Putin but it is a step.”

Leahy says any diplomatic plan must include a meaningful verification system using U.N. inspectors. He says he’s not interested in “symbolic” gestures.

“It’s going to be even more difficult because you have a civil war going on and how you get into some areas but we do know and our intelligence people know with I think quite accurately where the bulk of the chemical weapons are,” said Leahy. “They are of course in areas controlled by the Syrian government so verification while difficult is not impossible.” 

While Leahy never announced whether he would support limited air strikes against Syria, he says the United States must take a clear stand on the use of chemical weapons.

“Certain weapons are so abhorrent that I think not only the United States but most of the world has to stand up. Chemical weapons is certainly one of those,” said Leahy. “There are certain things where if you have great power and great standing in the world you also have great responsibility.”

And Leahy says if the diplomatic approach is not successful, Congress needs to consider the military option.

“I think there’s a great sigh of relief in Washington that they’re trying to find something other than military,” said Leahy. “But I think that also military is not off the table.”

Secretary of State John Kerry and a team of American arms experts are meeting in Geneva with a group of Russian officials to try to work out the details of a plan to remove the chemical weapons from Syria.