Kerry, Russia to Syria: Turn Over Chemical Weapons

US indicates there's still time to avoid a strike
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 9, 2013 10:31 AM CDT
Kerry, Russia to Syria: Turn Over Chemical Weapons
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks to the media after his talks with Syrian counterpart Walid al-Mouallem in Moscow on Monday, Sept. 9, 2013.   (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

(Newser) – Russia made the surprise move today of prodding ally Syria to hand over its chemical weapons, just hours after John Kerry suggested that Bashar al-Assad and Co. could avoid a military strike if they did exactly that within a week. "If the establishment of international control over chemical weapons in that country would allow avoiding strikes, we will immediately start working with Damascus," said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. "We are calling on the Syrian leadership to not only agree on placing chemical weapons storage sites under international control, but also on its subsequent destruction and fully joining the treaty on prohibition of chemical weapons."

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Lavrov, who met today with his Syrian counterpart, says he is hoping for a "quick, and, hopefully, positive answer" to his proposal, reports the AP. Kerry, speaking after meetings with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, said Assad "could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week—turn it over, all of it, without delay, and allow the full and total accounting." But he's not exactly holding his breath, saying Assad "isn't about to do it." He also said any military strikes against Syria would be "unbelievably small," notes Politico, for which he's now taking more heat from critics of the White House's handling of the situation. Says Bill Kristol: “Now we have the secretary of State saying, ‘Well, we went to Congress, it was so important to go to Congress, for an unbelievably small limited strike.’ Even I can see why reasonable people on the Hill … can say, ‘Is that really better than nothing?’" Click for highlights of Assad's interview with Charlie Rose. (Read more John Kerry stories.)

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