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Syria To Come Under Chemical Weapons Treaty Next Month

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview with Russian state television in Damascus on September 12.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview with Russian state television in Damascus on September 12.
The United Nations says it has formally accepted Syria's application to join the Chemical Weapons Convention, in a step outlined in an international plan to defuse tensions over the suspected use of chemical weapons in that country's ongoing civil war.

Meanwhile, one day after the United States and Russia announced an agreement to delay possible Western military strikes related to Syria's chemical weapons, reports said Syrian warplanes and artillery were bombarding rebel suburbs of the capital.

Syria recently applied to join the convention banning the production and stockpiling of chemical weapons and ordering the destruction of existing stocks. The UN announced that Syria would come under the treaty from October 14.

EXPLAINER: How Practical Is Russia's Syria Chemical-Weapons Proposal?

Syria joining the convention and the related Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is part of a plan drawn up by Russia and the United States to head off military strikes on Syria.

Speaking on September 14 after three days of talks with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that under the plan, the Syrian government 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."

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

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.

However, Lavrov said that noncompliance would have to be "convincingly and unequivocally" proven in the council before Chapter Seven could be invoked.

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 visiting French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius that the deal will “enable tensions in Syria to be eased."

Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian of Iran, the Syrian regime's closest regional ally, 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 chief of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) command that is fighting Assad's forces rejected the deal, and vowed to “continue to fight to bring down” the regime.

Salim Idriss told a news conference in Istanbul that the Russian-American deal "only seeks to gain time."

He also claimed that the Syrian military had been redeploying chemical weapons to Lebanon and Iraq in recent days.

"When the inspectors from the United Nations come to Syria, the regime will have weapons, chemical weapons, chemical materials in Iraq and in Lebanon," Idriss said. "And we are afraid that the regime will use these materials against the civilians in Syria, against the fighters of the FSA."

Not all U.S. politicians welcomed the Russian-American deal, 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."

Based on reporting by AFP, Reuters, and AP

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