TODAY   |  March 05, 2013

Kerry defends Obama on Syria, comments on Rodman

Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to NBC’s Andrea Mitchell and defends President Obama’s decision not to arm the Syrian rebels. He also weighs in on Dennis Rodman’s recent trip to North Korea, saying that Rodman “is a great basketball player, and as a diplomat… he’s a great basketball player.”

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> the u.s. is warning syrian leader bashar al assad that it will boost aid to rebels fighting to oust him unless he steps down. secretary of state john kerry is trying to gather support from middle eastern allies and chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell spoke to him earlier in qatar. good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, natalie. with 70,000 people now dead in syria's civil war and 1 million refugees, secretary kerry defended the president's decision not to arm the rebels, saying the u.s. is providing nonlethal aid while other countries fill the gap with weapons.

>> other countries, as you know, are arming the syrians. the president has put in place sanctions. the president has led an effort to try to pull together the syrian opposition, identify it, clarify it, get it unified to speak with one voice. and now the president has raised the american engagement to the level of giving directly to the syrian opposition and the syrian military.

>> nonlethal aid.

>> that's right, and others are providing lethal aid.

>> reporter: as for israel's prime minister netanyahu, saying that diplomacy has not worked to stop iran's nuclear program , he says they will not let iran run the clock and get a nuclear weapon . when i asked about dennis rodman 's trip to north korea , he said he was a great basketball player and as a diplomat, he was a great basketball player. natalie?

>> good answer. andrea mitchell in