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Syria agrees to turn over weapons

After Secretary of State John Kerry made an off-the-cuff remark about Syria turning over its chemical weapons, Russia quickly urged Bashar al-Assad to take him up on the offer.
Posted By GABRIELLE LEVY, UPI.com   |   Sept. 10, 2013 at 8:15 AM   |   Comments

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Sept. 10 (UPI) -- Syria announced it has accepted Russia's proposal to hand over its chemical weapons to international control, after a series of harried negotiations following an offhand remark by Secretary of State John Kerry that such a move could stave off military strike.

After "a very fruitful round of talks... we agreed to the Russian initiative," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said Tuesday morning.

Kerry made what appeared to ben an off-the-cuff remark, suggesting that the only thing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could do to avoid a military strike was that he "could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week."

"He isn't about to do it, and it can't be done, obviously," Kerry said.

But the Kremlin quickly jumped on the opportunity, pressing the Assad regime to take the suggestion seriously.

Initial reaction to Syria's response was cautiously optimistic. In his round of interviews Monday night, before Syria responded to the proposal, President Barack Obama left the door open for this new route.

"It's certainly a positive development when the Russians and Syrians both make gestures towards dealing with these chemical weapons," Obama said. Avoiding a strike would be "possible if it's real."

Still, Obama insisted the new developments did not remove the possibility of military action.

"We don't want just a stalling or delaying tactic to put off the pressure that we have on there right now," he said.

And Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has been among the most vocal proponents of intervention, said Syria's intent should be tested.

"That would be for the immediate dispatch of international monitors to these chemical weapons sites," McCain said. "I'm very, very skeptical, but the fact is, you can't pass up this opportunity -- if it is one."

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