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John Kerry: U.S., Russia Reach Deal On Syrian Chemical Weapons

By JOHN HEILPRIN and MATTHEW LEE 09/14/13 03:04 PM ET EDT AP

GENEVA — A diplomatic breakthrough Saturday on securing and destroying Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile averted the threat of U.S. military action for the moment and could swing momentum toward ending a horrific civil war.

Marathon negotiations between U.S. and Russian diplomats at a Geneva hotel produced a sweeping agreement that will require one of the most ambitious arms-control efforts in history.

The deal involves making an inventory and seizing all components of Syria’s chemical weapons program and imposing penalties if President Bashar Assad’s government fails to comply will the terms.

After days of intense day-and-night negotiations between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and their teams, the two powers announced they had a framework for ridding the world of Syria’s chemicals weapons.

The U.S. says Assad used them in an Aug. 21 attack on the outskirts of Damascus, the capital, killing more than 1,400 civilians. That prompted President Barack Obama to ready American airstrikes on his order – until he decided last weekend to ask for authorization from the U.S. Congress. Then came the Russian proposal, and Obama asked Congress, already largely opposed to military intervention, to delay a vote.

Kerry and Lavrov said they agreed on the size of the chemical weapons inventory, and on a speedy timetable and measures for Assad to do away with the toxic agents.

But Syria, a Moscow ally, kept silent on the development, while Obama made clear that “if diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act.”

The deal offers the potential for reviving international peace talks to end a civil war that has claimed more than 100,000 lives and sent 2 million refugees fleeing for safety, and now threatens the stability of the entire Mideast.

Kerry and Lavrov, along with the U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said the chances for a follow-up peace conference in Geneva to the one held in June 2012 would depend largely on the weapons deal.

The U.S. and Russia are giving Syria just one week, until Sept. 21, to submit “a comprehensive listing, including names, types and quantities of its chemical weapons agents, types of munitions, and location and form of storage, production, and research and development facilities.”

International inspectors are to be on the ground in Syria by November. During that month, they are to complete their initial assessment and all mixing and filling equipment for chemical weapons is to be destroyed. They must be given “immediate and unfettered” access to inspect all sites.

All components of the chemical weapons program are to be removed from the country or destroyed by mid-2014.

“Ensuring that a dictator’s wanton use of chemical weapons never again comes to pass, we believe is worth pursuing and achieving,” Kerry said.

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Syria crisis: US and Russia agree chemical weapons deal

Inspectors to be given ‘immediate unfettered access’ with a ‘comprehensive list’ of weapons from Damascus within a week, says Kerry

Link to video: Syria: US and Russia agree deal to eliminate chemical weapons

The United States and Russia have agreed that Syrian chemical weapons will be placed under international control and destroyed in a process that will begin with a week.

International inspectors from the Organisation of the Prevention of Chemical weapons must be given “immediate and unfettered” access to Syrian chemical weapons, said the US secretary of state, John Kerry, while Syria must give a “comprehensive list” of its chemical weapons within one week.

Speaking at a press conference in Geneva on Saturday after three days of talks, Kerry outlined the details of the deal as Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov looked on.

The deal “would allow us to expedite the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons” which would protect the Syrian people, Syria’s neighbours and the world.

Kerry said the removal of chemical weapons would be “credible and verifiable” if fully implemented. “The world will now wait for the Assad regime to honour its commitments,” said Kerry. “There is no room for anything other than full compliance.”

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Securing Syria’s Weapons May Require US Troops

Sep 14, 2013

troops walking in afghanistan

The White House and the Pentagon have repeatedly ruled out “boots on the ground” in Syria, but Defense Department officials were less certain Thursday on whether U.S. military personnel might be sent to help secure or destroy Syria’s chemical weapons.

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little gave a vague answer when asked if U.S. troops were prepared to assist should an international agreement allow Russia to take control of the tons of chemical weapons believed to be in the stockpiles of President Bashar al-Assad.

“I’m not going to speculate on who may or may not be participating in a process that may or may not take place,” Little said. “We’ve got to see where the process goes” before the U.S. military considers involvement, he said.

The first steps in the process were taking place in Geneva, where Secretary of State John Kerry was meeting for a second day with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on  Moscow’s proposal to have international teams take control of the chemical weapons.

Syria has tentatively agreed to the Russian initiative and also agreed to join the international ban on chemical and biological weapons.

Lavrov has urged the U.S. to speed the negotiations by dropping the threat to launch strikes on Syria, but Little said “the threat of military action is driving the process forward.”

To back up the threat, the U.S. was keeping four destroyers off the Syrian coast and the Nimitz carrier strike group in the Red Sea, though some of the ships may be replaced if the negotiations are drawn out, Little said.

“We have a mix of assets that would be available” to back up the threat, Little said. He wouldn’t comment on whether submarines were also in the Mediterranean to join with the surface ships in launching Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles. Little stressed that “we remain fully prepared to act” in the event that the talks with the Russians fail.

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As Assad Pledges To Turn Over Chemical Weapons, CIA Ships Weapons To Al Qaeda-Linked Rebels

By: Thursday September 12, 2013 8:11 am

What exactly is the Obama Administration’s policy on Syria anyway? One of the few things that could be gleaned from President Obama’s odd speech the other night is a concern for the use of chemical weapons. In fact, Secretary of State Kerry has been saying that was the only concern and any strikes would be “unbelievably small.”

So now Bashar al-Assad is talking about turning over his chemical weapons.

Bashar al-Assad has said he will place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control in line with a proposal from Russia. The Syrian president, speaking to Russia’s Rossiya 24 state news channel, denied however that US pressure had anything to do with the decision to surrender the arsenal.

This is what the Obama Administration wanted, right? Actually, the Russian proposal Assad agreed to was in response to a gaffe by Secretary Kerry demanding Assad turn over his chemical weapons.

But now it seems the US has decided to retaliate anyway shipping guns to Al Qaeda-linked Syrian rebels.

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