Syria ready to ‘unveil,’ not surrender its chemical weapons

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Syria said on Tuesday it is ready to unveil and cease the production of chemical weapons, as Western powers prepared to discuss a Russian plan for the country to surrender its chemical arms.

“We are ready to state where the chemical weapons are, to halt production of chemical weapons and show these installations to representatives of Russia, other countries and the United Nations,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said in a statement sent to Russia's Interfax news agency.


Muallem made the announcement a day after he had welcomed in Moscow the Russian proposal for placing chemical weapons under international control.

That Syrian overture on Monday rolled back Western plans for military action, with U.S. President Barack Obama agreeing to discuss in the United Nations ways to disarm the Syrian regime of chemical weapons.

Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain, France and the United States will introduce a U.N. Security Council resolution on Tuesday which includes a “proper timetable” for the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to hand over its chemical weapons.

Asked when the resolution should be introduced, Cameron told lawmakers: “I think that should happen today.

“I think we do need some deadlines, we do need some timetables. So I think in any Security Council resolution that we draft -- and Britain, France and America are discussing this right now -- we need to be clear there do need to be some thresholds,” he said, according to Agence-France-Presse.

“This is not about... monitoring chemical weapons in Syria. It's got to be about handing them over to international control and their destruction.”

The prime minister told British lawmakers the Russian proposal must be treated seriously, but also “tested out properly” to ensure they were not a “ruse.”

He said a Security Council resolution “seems to me a good way of testing out the seriousness of a Russian offer and the seriousness of any Syrian response.”

Cameron admitted that “things have moved faster than perhaps was anticipated.”

A U.S. official called on Tuesday for continued pressure and military threats so that the Syrian regime can deliver on its pledge to hand over its chemical weapons.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin said Western powers should first abandon military threats so that Syria can surrender its chemical weapons.

The Russian proposal “can work only if we hear that the American side and all those who support the United States in this sense reject the use of force,” Putin said in televised remarks.

He said he hoped the plan “will be a good step toward a peaceful resolution of the crisis.”

(With AFP and Reuters)

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