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US, Russia to secure Syria's chemical arsenal

Geneva/London/Paris, Sep 14 (IANS)
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses members of the news media Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, at the United Nations. Ban is urging Syria to immediately agree to transfer chemical weapons and chemical precursors to a safe place within the country for international destruction. (AP Photo

The US and Russia Saturday announced agreement on the roadmap to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons, even as senior US officials indicated that President Barack Obama would not insist on a UN Security Council resolution threatening Damascus with the use of force.

However, Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime was still in trouble, with UN secreatary general Ban Ki-moon accusing him of crimes against humanity, while French President Francois Hollande stressed the need to reinforce international support to opposition forces.

US Secretary of State John Kerry Saturday said US and Russia have reached an agreement in Geneva on securing chemical weapons from Syria.

Kerry's remarks came at a joint press conference after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov following their three-day negotiations in Geneva, Xinhua reported.

According to the framework, Syria must submit a "comprehensive listing" of its chemical weapons stockpile within a week.

The list should include names, types and quantities of its chemical weapons agents, types of munitions, location and form of storage, production, and research and development facilities.

They also agreed to use extraordinary procedures under the chemical weapons convention for the destruction and verification of Syrian chemical weapons, Kerry said.

Syria must provide the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and supporting personnel with "an immediate and unfettered right to inspect any and all sites in Syria", he said.

Kerry said the inspectors must be on the ground by November and destruction or removal of the chemical weapons must be completed by mid-2014.

"In the event of non-compliance, we have committed to impose measures under Chapter 7 within UN Security Council," Kerry said, referring to the authorisation of both military and non-military sanctions.

Meanwhile, Sergei Lavrov said the framework was based on consensus, compromise and professionalism.

"We have achieved an aim that we had in front of us... to put under control the arsenal of chemical weapons in Syria," he said.

He stressed that the main responsibility of ensuring of the safety of the inspectors would be up to the Syrian authorities, but the opposition should also not create threats to international personnel.

Lavrov also said the timetable for Syrian chemical weapons will be set after the UN chemical weapons body's approval.

Meanwhile, senior officials in the Barack Obama administration have said the US president would not insist on a UN Security Council resolution threatening Syria with the use of force, Iran's Mehr news agency cited White House officials as telling The New York Times.

In other development, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of committing many crimes against humanity.

Speaking at the UN Friday, the secretary general said a UN report next week would provide "overwhelming" confirmation that chemical weapons were used in Syria.

Ban accused Assad of "committing many crimes against humanity", but stopped short of blaming Syria's government for the alleged chemical attack near Damascus last month, The Telegraph reported.

On Friday, French President Francois Hollande stressed the need to reinforce international support to Syrian opposition "to enable it to face the (Syrian) regime's attacks".

He "stressed the need to stand firm against the regime of Bashar Al-Assad, to dissuade him from committing further use of chemical weapons and accept negotiations to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis".


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