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U.S. And Russia Agree On Syrian Chemical Weapons Plan

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (left) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have worked out a deal on Syria's chemical weapons.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (left) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have worked out a deal on Syria's chemical weapons.

The United States and Russia agreed on a plan which gives Syria until mid-2014 to destroy or remove its chemical weapons stockpiles.

Speaking after three days of talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on September 14 that under the agreement Damascus must provide details of all its chemical weapons stockpiles within a week.

"The United States and Russia are committed to the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons in the soonest and safest manner," Kerry said. "We agreed that Syria must submit within a week -- not in 30 days but in one week -- a comprehensive listing and additional details will be addressed regarding that in the coming days."

Kerry said the two sides have agreed that if Damascus fails to comply, they will seek a UN Security Council resolution that could authorize military action. He said that the framework agreed on September 14 "can provide greater protection and security to the world."

Kerry added that Damascus must hand over all its chemical weapons.

"We have reached a shared assessment of the amount and type of chemical weapons possessed by the Assad regime," Kerry said. And we are committed to the rapid assumption of control by the international community of those weapons."

The two top diplomats said elements of the deal include a timetable and procedures on how Syria must comply.

The agreement stipulates that the arms inspectors must be on the ground no later than November. Kerry said their goal is to complete the destruction or removal of the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile by mid-2014.

U.S. President Barack Obama has welcomed the deal, and urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government to comply. Obama said in a statement that if diplomacy fails, "the United States remains prepared to act."

The Pentagon said separately in a statement that the U.S. forces were still positioned for possible strikes on Syria.

Britain, China, France, and Iran also welcomed the Russian-American agreement.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on September 15 at a meeting with his visiting French counterpart Laurent Fabius that the deal will “enable tensions in Syria to be eased."

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said the United States and its allies no longer have a pretext to attack Syria.

In Syria, the state news agency SANA called the deal “a starting point,” but there was no immediate statement by the government about its willingness to implement the agreement.

However, the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) on September 14 rejected the deal and vowed to continue fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad. Salim Idriss, the chief of the FSA command told a news conference in Istanbul that the Russian-American deal "only seeks to gain time," adding, "We completely ignore this initiative and will continue to fight to bring down the regime."

Not all U.S. politicians welcomed the Russian-American deal either, with two Republican senators describing it as “an act of provocative weakness on America's part.”

In their joint statement, Arizona's John McCain and South Carolina's Lindsey Graham added: "We cannot imagine a worse signal to send to Iran as it continues its push for a nuclear weapon."

Syria recently applied to join the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, and on September 14 the United Nations announced that the country would come under the treaty from October 14.

The UN estimates that more than 100,000 people have been killed in the 30-month conflict, and 2 million refugees have now fled Syria.

Based on reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, and dpa