VALDAI, Russia -- Russian President Vladimir Putin says he is confident the Syrian government will carry out its commitment to destroy its chemical-weapons stockpiles under a Russian-U.S. agreement.
Putin told a gathering of journalists and Russian experts on September 19 that he "cannot be 100 percent sure" the plan will be carried out successfully.
But he said recent moves by the Syrian government "inspire confidence" that it would.
Putin also told the meeting in Valdai, in northwestern Russia, that he had strong grounds to believe that an August 21 chemical attack was a "provocation."
"We have all the grounds to believe that this is a provocation, a crafty one, of course, cunning -- but in the technique used to carry it out, a primitive one," Putin said.
Western governments say a report by UN inspectors has confirmed that President Bashar al-Assad's regime was behind the attack that killed hundreds.
The Syrian government and Russia have blamed rebels.
Meanwhile, Assad has said his government will implement the plan to dispose of Syria's chemical weapons but noted it will take one year and $1 billion to complete the process.
"We don't have experience in that regard, but some say [it] takes one year," Assaid said. "I didn't say 'years.' As I heard, it takes about one year, maybe little bit less, little bit more."
Assad, in an interview with Fox News, again denied his forces were behind the August 21 attack and criticized this week's UN report about the deaths.
"The whole story doesn't even hold together. It's not realistic," Assad said. "So no, we didn't, in one word. We didn't use any chemical weapons in Ghouta because if you want to use it, you would harm your troops, you would have harmed the tens of thousands of civilians living in Damascus."
Russia and the United States brokered a deal last week to put Assad's chemical-weapons stockpiles under intenational control to avoid possible U.S. military strikes that Washington said were intended to punish him for the poison-gas attack.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on September 19 that Russia has no current plans to destroy Syrian chemical weapons on its own territory under the Russian-U.S. deal.
Russia and the United States are the only countries with industrial-scale capacity to handle several types of chemical weapons agents, but the import of chemical weapons is banned under U.S. law.
Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and Interfax