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U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about his administration's counterterrorism policy at the National Defense University at Ft. McNair in Washington, May 23, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing

WASHINGTON | Fri May 24, 2013 1:28am IST

(Reuters) – In a wide-ranging speech on foreign policy on Thursday, President Barack Obama defended his administration’s use of drones to kill terrorists abroad, and in a nod to concerns, outlined plans to limit the use of such strikes.

As described in a White House statement, the key elements of the president’s policy for the use of force in counterterrorism operations outside the United States and outside a war zone are as follows:

* The United States will not use lethal force when it is possible to capture a terrorist.

* Lethal force may only be used to prevent or stop attacks against U.S. persons, never as a form of punishment or in lieu of prosecution.

* There must be a legal basis for using lethal force.

* The United States will only use lethal force against a target that poses a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons.

* There must be near certainty that a terrorist is present at the site of the strike and that non-combatants will not be injured or killed.

* There must be a judgment that the host government cannot or will not effectively address the threat.

* Decisions to capture or use force against terrorists are made at the most senior levels of the U.S. government, and senior national security officials will review the legality of proposed actions.

* If the United States considers an operation against a U.S. citizen, the Justice Department will review whether the action is consistent with U.S. laws and rights.

* Appropriate members of Congress will continue to be provided with updates when the use of lethal force has been approved, and congressional committees will be informed when action has been taken.

(Reporting by Mark Felsenthal; editing by Jackie Frank)