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GENEVA - As Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, began talks on the nuts-and-bolts of a Russian proposal to secure Syria's chemical weapons stockpile on Thursday, Kerry suggested that U.S. patience with a Russian proposal to head off U.S. military action was limited.



"Expectations are high," Kerry said in comments to reporters on Thursday after meeting with Lavrov in Geneva. " They are high for the United States, and perhaps even more so on the Russians to deliver on the promise of this moment. This is not a game, and I said this to my friend Sergey, when we talk about this initially."



Kerry and Lavrov and a group of technical experts are meeting Thursday and again on Friday to try to discuss the Russian proposal.



Kerry also rejected Syrian President Bashar Assad's suggestion in a television interview Thursday that he would begin submitting data on his chemical weapons arsenal one month after signing an international chemical weapons ban. Assad claimed the 30-day lead time would be standard.



"There is nothing standard about this process," Kerry said. "The words of the Syrian regime in our judgment are simply not enough."



Kerry reiterated that President Obama could still order a U.S. military strike could occur if the Russian proposal is unsuccessful and Assad doesn't dismantle his chemical weapons arsenal.



"There ought to be consequences if it doesn't take place."



Meanwhile, Obama told reporters on Thursday ahead of a meeting with his Cabinet that he was "hopeful" that the talks would be fruitful but then quickly turned his attention to domestic matters.



"Even as we have been spending a lot of time on the Syria issue and making sure that international attention is focused on the horrible tragedy that occurred there, it is still important to recognize that we've got a lot more stuff to do here in this government," said Obama, who noted looming deadlines to pass a budget, raise the debt ceiling and implement his signature health care legislation. "We got a lot of stuff to do."



The president's desire to keep expectations low for the talks is understandable. After the Russians floated the idea of taking a role in securing Syria's chemical weapons earlier this week, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were highly skeptical of the Russians, who along with Iran are the Syrians chief patrons.



Russian President Vladimir Putin added to Congressional doubts with comments he made in New York Times Op-Ed on Thursday.



Putin challenged the Obama administration's claim that Bashar Assad's regime was responsible for deploying the chemical weapons and taking umbrage with Obama's pointing to American exceptionalism as a reason the USA should support a military strike if diplomatic efforts fail.



White House press secretary Jay Carney dismissed Putin's criticism of Obama pointing to American exceptionalism in national address on Syria on Tuesday. Carney also called the Russian president's claim that rebels were responsible for deploying chemical weapons "wholly unsubstantiated" and said the Russians are "isolated and alone" in blaming the opposition for the Aug. 21 chemical attack that left more than 1,400 civilians dead



U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle?including the Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Robert Menendez?said they were insulted by Putin's commentary.



"I almost wanted to vomit," Menendez, D-N.J., told CNN. "I worry when someone who came up through the KGB tells us what is in our national interests, and what is not. It really raises the question of how serious the Russian proposal is."


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