By Lesley Wroughton
DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Secretary of State John Kerry dismissed on Friday as "a myth" suggestions that the United States was withdrawing from world affairs.
"I'm perplexed by claims I occasionally hear that somehow America is disengaging from the world - this myth that America is pulling back, or giving up, or standing down. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth," Kerry told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
His remarks were seen partly as a response to Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former intelligence chief, who told a Davos panel earlier on Friday that the world was disappointed with a "sense of no direction" in U.S. foreign policy.
Kerry cited U.S. involvement with issues from Israel to Iran to Syria and in Asia and Africa to counter a similar view expressed by others in the Middle East and by critics in the United States.
He said it was based on a false assumption that the only tool of U.S. influence was its military. "If we don't have a huge troop presence or aren't brandishing an immediate threat of force, we are somehow absent from the arena," Kerry said.
"You can't find another country - not one country - as proactively engaged or that is partnering with so many Middle Eastern countries as constructively as we are, on so many high-stake fronts," he said.
While in Davos, Kerry has continued his pursuit of an Israeli-Palestinian deal, holding talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
And Kerry defended an agreement among world powers and Iran to curtail Tehran's nuclear program, although he insisted that Iran's compliance needed to be verified.
"Iran must meet this test," Kerry said. "If it does, the Middle East will be a safer place, free from the fear of a nuclear arms race. And diplomatic engagement, backed by sanctions and other options, will have proved its worth."
Kerry, who attended the launch of Syrian peace talks on Tuesday in Montreux, Switzerland, said a political solution was the only way to resolve the crisis, and he reiterated that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had no place in the country's future.
(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by David Storey, Toni Reinhold)