Syria, Iran Discuss Russian Chemical Arms Plan in Moscow
NB: This article has been corrected. The original version mistakenly referred to Abdollahian mentioning the possibility of 'Russian participation' in the handover instead of 'Iranian participation.'
MOSCOW, September 10 (RIA Novosti) – Iranian and Syrian diplomats on Tuesday met in Moscow to discuss a proposal to put Syria's chemical weapons under international control, an idea backed by both countries in hopes that it could prevent US airstrikes against Syria.
"We have discussed the mechanisms of realizing the Russian initiative [on a chemical weapons handover], but details will be announced later," Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said after talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.
Speaking in Persian, Abdollahian added that Iranian participation in the handover had been not ruled out, but he did not elaborate.
The proposal was first floated on Monday by Washington as a "rhetorical comment," but found sudden backing in Moscow. The United States has threatened limited strikes against Syrian government targets as punishment for the alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, which has denied such accusations.
The Syrian foreign minister said earlier that Damascus supported Russia's idea to transfer Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles to the international community and possibly destroy them.
A spokeswoman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry said on national television Tuesday that Tehran also backed such a handover. But the Iranian deputy foreign minister was more cautious, saying in Moscow only that "we have noted Russia's proposal" and that it "is a certain opportunity for a political solution in Syria … without foreign intervention."
China, Japan, the Arab League leadership and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon have also spoken in support of the proposed handover, while US President Barack Obama called it "potentially positive."
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