US-Russia reach agreement on Syria weapons

5:27 PM, Sep 14, 2013   |    comments
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GENEVA - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov say they have reached an agreement on a framework for securing Syria's chemical weapons after the third day of intense negotiations in Geneva.

They say some elements of the deal include a timetable and how Syria must comply - and that if Syria fails, they will seek a Security Council resolution that could authorize military action.

At a news conference Saturday, Kerry said the pair and their teams of experts had reached "a shared assessment" of the existing stockpile and that Syria must destroy all of its weapons.

Kerry said "we have committed to a standard that says, verify and verify."

The negotiations between the United States and Russia on securing Syria's chemical weapons also are considered key to a resumption of peace talks to end the 2 ½-year Syrian civil war.

President Barack Obama says he's prepared to move forward on a "serious plan" for Syria's chemical weapons but adds that the world must stand ready to act if diplomacy fails.

In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama says poison gas cannot become the new weapon of choice for tyrants and terrorists.

Obama blames Syria for an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack the U.S. maintains killed more than 1,400 people, including children. He threatened a military strike in response but now is awaiting the outcome of negotiations between the U.S. and Russia after Syria agreed to a Russian proposal to turn over the weapons stockpile.

The U.N. chief is expected to present a report on the use of chemical weapons in Syria to the Security Council on Monday morning.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he believes there will be "an overwhelming report" from U.N. inspectors that chemical weapons were used in an attack in Syria on Aug. 21, but he isn't saying who was responsible.

The U.N. inspectors have a mandate to determine whether chemical weapons were used - and if so, which agent - not to establish who was responsible. But two U.N. diplomats said the report could point to the perpetrators, saying that the inspectors collected many samples from the attack and also interviewed doctors and witnesses.

The chief chemical weapons inspector has said he will deliver his report on the attack to Ban this weekend. Two U.N. diplomats said late Friday that Ban would was expected to brief the council about it on Monday morning.

The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because the time was not yet final.

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