UK & World News
Assad To Destroy Chemical Weapons 'In A Year'
Syrian leader Bashar al Assad has said he is committed to destroying his stockpile of chemical arms - but warned it would take a year to do so.
In an interview with Fox News, Mr Assad said he was committed to getting rid of the arsenal but conceded it would cost at least†£600m ($1bn).
And he also challenged America to foot the bill.
"It needs a lot of money, it needs about one billion (US dollars)," he told the US crew at the presidential palace in Damascus.
"If the American administration is ready to pay those money, and to take responsibility of bringing toxic materials to the United States, why don't they do it?"
Mr Assad also insisted that his decision to destroy the weapons was not forced upon him by the threat of US strikes.
He said destroying the weapons was "a very complicated operation, technically".
"So it depends, you have to ask the experts what they mean by quickly. It has a certain schedule," he said.
"It needs a year, or maybe a little bit more."
Mr Assad also said a UN report that found "clear and convincing evidence" of a sarin nerve gas attack in Syria last month is "unrealistic", and denied responsibility for it.
He also used the one-hour interview to criticise the American stance in the Syrian crisis, saying that, unlike Russia, Washington had tried to get involved in Syria's leadership and governance.
And as diplomatic wrangling over Syria's chemical weapons continues, a roadside bomb in a central Syria has killed at least 14 members of President Assad's minority Alawite.
The blast targeted two buses near the Alawite village of Jabourin, north of Homs city, said the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Alawites are an offshoot sect of Shia Islam who mostly support Mr†Assad and have been increasingly targeted by hardline fighters among the Sunni Muslim-dominated opposition.
And Turkey has closed one of its border gates to Syria following clashes near the town of Azaz, which is close to the Turkish frontier.
The fighting between the Western-backed Free Syrian Army fighters and an al Qaeda-affiliated rebel group appears to have ceased.
The clashes comes as US Senator John McCain penned an opinion piece for a Russian website in which he criticises Vladimir Putin's close ties with the Assad regime.
Mr McCain's column was in response to Mr Putin's†piece in The New York Times last week which was highly critical of America's response to the Syrian crisis.