ALLIES AT ODDS: British Foreign Secretary William Hague, left, greets US Secretary of State John Kerry outside the Foreign Office in London on Monday. Picture: REUTERS
ALLIES AT ODDS: British Foreign Secretary William Hague, left, greets US Secretary of State John Kerry outside the Foreign Office in London on Monday. Picture: REUTERS

LONDON — US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could avoid a military strike by turning over all his chemical weapons within a week but immediately made clear he was sure that would never happen.

When asked by a reporter whether there was anything Mr Assad’s government could do or offer to stop any attack, Mr Kerry said: "Sure, he could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week — turn it over, all of it without delay and allow the full and total accounting (of it) — but he isn’t about to do it and it can’t be done."

It did not appear Mr Kerry was making a serious offer to the Syrian government, which the US accuses of using chemical weapons in an August 21 attack.

Mr Kerry said the control of chemical weapons in Syria was limited to Mr Assad, Mr Assad’s brother Maher and an unnamed general.

Mr Kerry said he was confident of the evidence that the US and its allies had presented to support their case that Mr Assad’s forces used chemical weapons, though he said he understood concerns, given the discord over the 2003 Iraq war.

Speaking at a news briefing in London with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, Mr Kerry said doing nothing in the face of such evidence would come back to haunt the US and its allies.

"If you want to send Iran and Hezbollah and Assad a congratulatory message: ‘You guys can do what you want,’ you’d say: ‘Don’t do anything.’

"We believe that is dangerous and we will face this down the road in some more significant way if we’re not prepared to take ... a stand now," Mr Kerry said.

He also stressed that the relationship between Britain and the US was as strong as ever despite the British parliament having decided not to join military action against Syria.

"The relationship between the US and the UK has often been described as special, essential and it has been described thus because it is," Mr Kerry said. "The bond ... is bigger than one vote."

Mr Kerry said that while in London he had held talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that were "productive and informative", but he did not give any further details.

Reuters