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Assad Cites Russian Influence In Handover Plan; Kerry, Lavrov Meet

September 12, 2013

President Bashar al-Assad has confirmed that Syria plans to give up its chemical weapons and demanded that the U.S. drop threats of military action against his regime in return.

Assad, in an interview with Russian television channel Rossiya 24 on September 12, said Damascus will in the next few days send documents required for Syria to join the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the international anti-chemical-weapons body.

Assad said he expects Syria will start handing over information on its chemical weapons stockpile to international monitors one month after Damascus joins the CWC.

But Assad said Washington must stop arming rebels and stop threatening military force if it wants the Russian-proposed plan to work.

He also said Syria will put its chemical weapons arsenal under international control 'because of Russia,' not due to U.S. threats of a military strike.

Separately, UN spokesman Farhan Haq said on September 12 that the United Nations has already received a document from Syria that is a first step toward joining the CWC. Haq said the document 'is being translated.'

Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama expressed hope that Secretary of State John Kerry's meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva can 'yield a concrete result' on Syria.

'I am hopeful that the discussions that Secretary Kerry has with Foreign Minister Lavrov as well as some of the other players in this can yield a concrete result and I know that he is going to be working very hard over the next several days to see what the possibilities are there,' Obama said.

Russian and U.S. chemical weapons experts will take part in the discussions, which are expected to last at least two days.

In an opinion piece in 'The New York Times,' Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier warned that any U.S. military strike on Syria could upend world order and 'unleash a new wave of terrorism.'

Putin said a military strike could 'undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa.'

Putin also blamed Syrian rebels for the August 21 chemical weapons attack on civilians near Damascus that prompted a U.S. threat of military action.

Putin wrote that 'there is every reason to believe [the attack] was used not by the Syrian army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists.'

But the Pentagon said on Thursday that Putin and Russia are 'isolated and alone' in asserting that Syrian rebels were likely responsible for the August 21 attack.

With reporting by Reuters and AP

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/lavrov- kerry-syria-/25103318.html

Copyright (c) 2013. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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