Russia to Syria: Put chemical weapons under international control

Monday, September 9, 2013 - 9:54am

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Russia urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday to put his nation's chemical weapons stockpile under international control as part of an effort to head off a possible military strike from the United States.

Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said his country would urge Syria to take the action if it would avert a military response from the United States. There was no immediate reaction from the Syrian government.

Lavrov's comments came the same day Secretary of State John Kerry seemed to endorse a similar course of action.

Assad "could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week," Kerry said during a news conference with British Foreign Secretary William Hague. "But he isn't about to do it and it can't be done obviously."

Kerry made the remark in London during the final stop of a trip that also included stops in Lithuania and France with the international response to the Assad regime's alleged use of chemical weapons dominating the conversation.

But the State Department soon sought to clarify Kerry's comment.

"Secretary Kerry was making a rhetorical argument about the impossibility and unlikelihood of Assad turning over chemical weapons he has denied he used," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

The Obama administration says the Assad government was responsible for the August 21 chemical weapons attack outside Damascus, and that the attack killed over a thousand people. President Barack Obama is seeking congressional approval for a military strike in response to that attack.

Kerry's point "was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts can not be trusted to turn over chemical weapons, otherwise he would have done so long ago," Psaki said. "That's why the world faces this moment."

Kerry is due to participate in a classified briefing about Syria to members of the House of Representatives after his return from London later Monday.

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