(Newsroom America) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that establishing a no-fly zone over Syria at the request of rebels battling government troops is "not on the front burner" at present, and that establishing one would require a "major, major policy decision."
In an interview with The Associated Press, Panetta said he is confident the U.S. could gain air superiority over Syrian airspace and establish a protective zone.
"We have planned for a number of contingencies that could take place and one of those possible contingencies is developing a no-fly zone. But we've also pointed out difficulties in being able to implement that," he said. But, he added: "It's not on the front burner as far as I know."
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the U.S. is working with Turkey to develop a range of steps regarding Syria, including establishing no fly zones in parts of the country.
Rebel leaders have expressed frustration with Washington, however, because so far all aid has been non-lethal.
The U.S. and NATO successfully established a no-fly zone over Libya last year to assist rebels there battling the regime, but Syria's air defenses are relatively modern and pose a greater risk to allied aircraft, experts have said.
Syria purchases most of its weapons from Russia and is backed by Iran in its battle against the rebels.
In recent weeks, as the rebels have advanced on certain regions of the country, Syrian President Bashar Assad has increasingly used air power to blunt Rebel advances.
Panetta said a primary concern of the U.S. is to ensure the safety and security of Syria's chemical and biological weapons stocks.
© 2012 Newsroom America.