Senior NATO official says Assad will go

MOSCOW Fri Dec 14, 2012 2:35pm IST

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (centre R) meets women working in the Islamic education sector and preachers in mosques and Islamic institutes, in Damascus December 11, 2012, in this handout photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA. REUTERS/Sana

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (centre R) meets women working in the Islamic education sector and preachers in mosques and Islamic institutes, in Damascus December 11, 2012, in this handout photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA.

Credit: Reuters/Sana

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is unlikely to be able to stay in power, a senior NATO official said on Friday.

Knud Bartels, a Danish general who chairs NATO's Military Committee, also said the Western alliance was drafting plans for safeguarding Syria's chemical weapons stocks if Assad stepped down or was forced from power.

"You may say I am maybe assuming that Assad will disappear. I tend to believe that this is indeed the case," Bartels said after a meeting in Moscow.

Answering a question about strategies over the conflict in Syria, he said NATO's greatest concern was over the security of Turkey, which borders Syria.

NATO agreed last week to send Patriot missiles to Turkey to protect it against the threat of missiles from Syria and the alliance's secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said on Thursday that Assad's government was nearing collapse.

(Reporting By Gabriela Baczynska, Writing by Alissa de Carbonnel,; Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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