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Transfering chemical arms at Russia's urging: Assad

Damascus/Paris/Beijing, Sep 12, 2013 (IANS): 22:55 IST
Bashar al-Assad
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Thursday he had agreed to hand over the country's chemical weapons at Russia's urging even as a French minister said that UN experts are likely to publish their findings on an chemical attack in Syria by Sep 16.

In an interview with Rossiya 24 channel, Assad said he had agreed to put chemical weapons under international observation "upon the request of Russia and not because of the American threats".

"Any war against Syria would be destructive to the entire region and would plunge the region in a series of problems and instability for decades to come," Xinhua cited state-run SANA news agency as quoting him.

Assad's statement came a couple of days after his administration accepted a Russian proposal that Syria place chemical weapons under international observation to avoid US military strikes over alleged chemical attacks in Damascus last month.

US President Barack Obama had been seeking congressional approval for military actions against Syria for an alleged Aug 21 chemical weapons attack outside the Syrian capital, which reportedly killed at least 1,429 people, including 426 children. The Syrian government has denied the allegation.

On Monday, Russia came up with the proposal urging the Syrian government not only to put its chemical weapons under international control, but also to agree on their destruction and on full-fledged participation of the Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

After Syria accepted the proposal the next day, Obama asked Congress to postpone the vote to authorise the use of force as the US sought a diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis.

In Paris French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Thursday that UN experts would "probably" publish their findings on the Aug 21 chemical attack in Syria Sep 16.
The minister stressed there was no doubt that forces loyal to Assad launched the chemical attack in Damascus suburbs last month, Xinhua reported citing the minister's interview with RTL radio.

"From the time when only the Syrian regime had stocks (of chemical arms), the carriers and interest to do so, we can conclude (who was behind the attack)," Fabius said.

"Next week, we will have a true idea to know whatever the initial intentions, if (Syria's chemical arsenal) can be placed under control or not," he added.
Meanwhile, China Thursday called for a positive and rational response to the Syria issue and suggested a second international conference on the country in Geneva at an early date.

"Important opportunities have emerged on easing tension in Syria. We hope all parties can grasp the opportunities, make a positive and rational response," Xinhua quoted Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei as saying at a regular news briefing in Beijing.

His comment came after the French government Wednesday said it has kept open the military option to act in Syria if a diplomatic solution fails.

Hong again called for a solution on Syria through political and diplomatic means to preserve peace and stability in the country and the region.

He called for an end to the war and violence to ensure the human rights of the Syrian people, after the UN Human Rights Council concluded in a report that the Syrian government and the opposition both committed human rights violations and war crimes.

"The imperative is to urge all parties to cease fire and stop the violence, convene the second international meeting on Syria in Geneva as soon as possible and settle their disagreements through dialogue and negotiation," Hong said.

"The Syrian people's human rights can only be guaranteed by realising their national security and stability first," he added.

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