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'Political, not military' solutions needed in Mideast: Hagel

Update: May, 10/2013 - 12:29

WASHINGTON – The problems that plague the Middle East, including Iran's nuclear ambitions and Syria's civil war, require "political, not military" solutions, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has said.

The Pentagon chief on Thursday highlighted President Barack Obama's cautious stance on resorting to armed force in the volatile Mideast region.

He said that regional challenges including "the nuclear challenge and dangerous instability in Syria, or the continuing threat of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups" must be addressed through "coalitions of common interests," including Israel and other allies in the region.

"A common thread woven into the Middle East fabric is that the most enduring and effective solutions to the challenges facing the region are political, not military," Hagel told an audience at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

"America's role in the Middle East is to continue to help influence and shape the course of events – using diplomatic, economic, humanitarian, intelligence, and security tools in coordination with our allies," he said.

Arab uprisings had shaken the established political landscape in the Middle East, he said.

"The old order in the Middle East is disappearing, and what will replace it remains unknown.

"There will continue to be instability in the region as this process plays out and we all must adjust accordingly."

Prospects for stability in the longer run would hinge on the outcome of political transitions in Egypt, Libya and Syria, said Hagel, who traveled to the region last month.

"The best hope for long-term stability relies on countries like Egypt, Libya, and Syria making transitions to democratic rule," he said.

The war in Syria was turning "sectarian" and the possibility the state would break apart was "increasing," he said. The war was putting Syria's "stockpiles of chemical weapons and advanced conventional weapons at risk, and the escalation of violence threatens to spill across its borders," he said. AFP

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