Assad Reluctantly Hands Over Chemicals

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Spining

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has appeared on Russian TV to confirm that his country’s chemical weapons will be placed under international control.

Assad told Rossiya 24 the move was as a result of a Russian initiative and not the threat of US military action.

The comments came as the Russian and US foreign ministers prepared for key talks in Geneva, reports the BBC.

The US accuses the Syrian regime of killing hundreds in a poison-gas attack in the Damascus suburbs on 21 August.

The government denies the allegation, blaming rebels for the attack.

Assad told Rossiya 24: “Syria is placing its chemical weapons under international control because of Russia. The US threats did not influence the decision.”

Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov earlier outlined three main phases of Moscow’s proposal:

?? * Syria joins the Chemical Weapons Convention, which outlaws the production and use of the weapons
* Syria reveals where its chemical weapons are stored and gives details of its programme
* Experts decide on the specific measures to be taken

Lavrov, completing a visit to Kazakhstan, said: “I am sure that there is a chance for peace in Syria. We cannot let it slip away.”

He did not mention the destruction of the weapons, which is thought to be a sticking point in Moscow’s negotiations with Damascus.

Lavrov is due to discuss the plan in Geneva with US Secretary of State John Kerry, who will first hold talks with UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

Meanwhile, Russia’s plan to dismantle Syria’s chemical arsenal is “doable but difficult”, according to US officials.

The Russian and US foreign ministers are due to hold talks in Geneva over the plan, which involves Syria handing its stockpile to foreign observers.

Both sides are taking teams of experts, saying the disarmament process could be long and highly complex.

The US accuses the Syrian regime of killing hundreds in a poison-gas attack in the Damascus suburbs on 21 August.

The regime denies the allegations, but has agreed to abide by Russia’s disarmament plan.

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