Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says he does not see the U.S. taking military action in Syria without the backing of a U.N. Security Council resolution _ something that so far appears unlikely because of opposition from Russia.
Panetta says his greatest responsibility is to make sure that if U.S. troops are deployed in any military role, that America has the support it needs from the international community.
His comments Thursday came a day after Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, suggested that some type of military intervention may be the only remaining option because diplomatic efforts so far have failed to remove Syrian President Bashar Assad from power.
"No, I cannot envision that," Panetta said when asked about military action without U.N. backing. Still he said that all options remain on the table and that the Pentagon is planning for "any contingency."
"But, ultimately, you know, the international community and the president of the United States are going to have to decide what steps to take," Panetta told reporters traveling with him to the Shangri-La Dialogue, a prominent defense conference in Singapore.
While he called the tumult in Syria an intolerable situation, his comments were more measured than other U.S. leaders Thursday, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who lashed out at Russia for continuing its support of Assad.