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View Full Version : Give up weapons, Russia urges Syria



Dotyaw
10th September 2013, 04:04 AM
Russia has asked Syria to put its chemical weapons stockpiles under international control and then have them destroyed, in an attempt to avoid US military strikes.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the offer was made during talks with his Syrian counterpart, Walid Muallem.

Mr Muallem said he welcomed the initiative.

The US is threatening strikes accusing the Syrian regime of war crimes, though Damascus denies the claims.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, in Europe to garner support for the military action, has once again warned that taking no action is riskier than launching strikes.

When asked at a news conference whether there was anything Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could do to avoid military action, Mr Kerry replied that he could hand over his entire stockpile of chemical weapons within the next week.

US officials subsequently clarified that Mr Kerry was making a "rhetorical argument" rather than a serious offer.

However, Mr Lavrov later said he had urged Mr Muallem during talks in Moscow to "not only agree on placing chemical weapons storage sites under international control, but also on their subsequent destruction".

He said he had also told Mr Muallem that Syria should then fully join the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Mr Muallem told reporters through an interpreter that Syria welcomed the Russian initiative.

He praised Russia for "attempting to prevent American aggression against our people".

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said the destruction of the weapons would be a "huge step forward", but warned that it should not be used as a "distraction tactic".

'Pay the price'

The Russians have been the main international ally of Mr Assad's regime throughout Syria's two-and-a-half-year civil war.

Russia has blocked three resolutions against Syria in the UN Security Council, and has dismissed evidence linking Mr Assad's forces to a chemical attack in Damascus on 21 August.

The US says Syrian government forces used poison gas to kill 1,429 people in the attack.

Mr Assad's government blames the attack on rebels fighting to overthrow him, in a conflict that the UN says has claimed some 100,000 lives.

The UN sent weapons experts into Damascus to probe the attack.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday that if the experts concluded chemicals had been used, he would consider asking the Security Council to set up a zone in Syria where the weapons could be destroyed.

Meanwhile, the Syrian leader gave an interview to US network PBS in which he warned the US against intervention, saying the Middle East was "on the brink of explosion".

"You're going to pay the price if you're not wise with dealing with terrorists. There are going to be repercussions," he said.

"You should expect everything. The government is not the only player in this region. You have different parties, different factions, different ideologies. You have everything in this decision now."

Mr Assad did not explain whether his comment was a threat that Syrian-backed groups such as Hezbollah would launch retaliation, or a warning that strikes would bolster al-Qaeda-linked groups.

He calls the rebels "terrorists" and has often insisted that they are linked to al-Qaeda.

He also denied using chemical weapons saying there was "no evidence" to hold his government responsible for the 21 August attack.

The White House immediately dismissed his statement.

"It doesn't surprise us that someone who would kill thousands of his own people, including hundreds of children with poison gas, would also lie about it," said spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan.

'Heavy lift'

US officials have admitted they have no "irrefutable" evidence of Mr Assad's involvement in the August attack but say it common-sense that his government was responsible.

US President Barack Obama has cleared his schedule this week to focus all his attention on building support for the Syrian intervention.

He has acknowledged he faces a "heavy lift" to win congressional backing.

A poll carried out by ABC and the BBC on Friday suggested more than 230 of the 433 members in the House of Representatives were either opposed or likely to oppose strikes.

Just 44 representatives said they would support or were likely to support action, and a large proportion are still undecided on the issue.

Many US politicians and members of the public remain concerned that military action could draw the nation into a prolonged war and spark broader hostilities in the region.