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Russia Talks Tough As Syria Hands Over 'Expected' Chemical Weapons Data

September 21, 2013

The international chemical weapons watchdog says it has received from Syria 'the expected' account of its chemical arms program.

The Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said in a statement on September 21 that its technical secretariat "is currently reviewing the information received.'

The announcement comes before a deadline set for Damascus as part of a Russian-U.S. deal.

Under the terms of that plan, its chemical weapons arsenal is to be dismantled by mid-2014.

The OPCW has postponed a meeting of its core members set for September 22 which had been due to discuss a timetable.

According to diplomatic sources, a draft text to be discussed at the meeting has not yet been agreed upon by Washington and Moscow.

The Russia-U.S. plan emerged after a U.S. threat to attack Syria and intense international diplomacy after a suspected poison gas attack killed hundreds of civilians on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21.

In a report last week, the United Nations confirmed that the nerve agent sarin was used in the deadly attack.

The report did not apportion blame, but the Britain, France, the United States and other countries have accused the Syrian government forces of carrying out the attack.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has blamed rebel groups. His ally, Russia, says it had 'serious grounds' to believe the attack had been a provocation by the rebels.

Russia, which has opposed the use of force against Syria, reiterated on September 21 that its position could change if the Kremlin discovers Assad 'is cheating.'

Russian presidential administration chief of staff Sergei Ivanov told an international conference in Stockholm that it should be clear within one week where Syria is keeping chemical weapons.

He added that it could take another 'two or three months' to figure out the length of time and cost of destroying the arsenal.

'In the event of external military interference the opposition ...would entirely lose interest in negotiations, considering that the U.S. would bomb the regime to its foundations as in Libya, giving them an easy path to victory,' Ivanov said according to Reuters, which was quoting Russian media reporting on a Stockholm conference organized by the British-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Syria is believed to have some 1,000 tons of chemical toxins.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/syria-chemical-data- weapons-deadline-russia/25113423.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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