UK & World News
Syria: Regime 'To Declare Chemical Weapons'
Syria has said it will declare its chemical weapons arsenal and will sign up to the Chemical Weapons Convention to avoid US military action.
In a statement shown on Russian state television, Foreign Minister Walid al Moallem said Syria was ready to co-operate fully with a Russian proposal to put its chemical weapons under international control and would stop producing more.
He added that Syria would place the locations of the weapons in the hands of Russian representatives, "other countries" and the UN.
He said: "We want to join the convention on the prohibition of chemical weapons. We are ready to observe our obligations in accordance with that convention, including providing all information about these weapons."
It comes as Britain, France and the US table a new UN resolution to make the proposal binding on Syria.
UN sources said the draft text included condemnation of Syrian President Bashar al Assad and diplomats were deciding whether to include measures which urged peaceful resolution of conflict or permitted military action if other methods failed.
Earlier on Tuesday the Syrian regime accepted the Russian proposal, according to state television, but the claims are being treated with scepticism.
Announcing the resolution plan, British Prime Minister David Cameron said the world needed to test if the Syrian arms handover was genuine and not just a delaying tactic against an international response to the use of nerve gas against civilians in Damascus last month.
He said: "We need to know that there's a proper timetable for doing this, we need to know there'd be a proper process for doing it, and crucially there'd have to be consequences if it wasn't done."
A spokesman for Mr Cameron earlier pointed out that as recently as Monday, Assad was refusing to confirm that he holds stocks of chemical weapons.
Russia called an emergency closed door UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday evening to discuss the handover proposals, but later cancelled it.
But President Vladimir Putin insisted the handover of weapons would only work if the US rejected a use of force against Syria.
Speaking on Russian TV, he said: "(The proposal) can work only if we hear that the American side and all those who support the United States in this sense reject the use of force."
Meanwhile, the US Secretary of State John Kerry told the Armed Services Committee in Washington that Syria has some 1,000 tons of "numerous chemical agents".
He said the US was still awaiting a formal proposal on the handover of weapons, stressed America would not wait long and that any deal must be struck in a binding UN Security Council resolution.
Mr Kerry will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday to discuss the proposals.
Russia floated the idea after Mr Kerry, in an apparently throwaway remark, said the only way for Syria to avoid attack was to hand over all of its chemical weapons within a week. Russia is understood to be against the idea of a UN resolution binding Syria to the handover and has previously vetoed three resolutions that would have condemned the Syrian government over the civil war.
President Barack Obama, who has pledged to delay a military strike if Syria's chemical weapons are put under international control, still plans to make the case for Congress to authorise military action as an option. Congressional aides say votes may not be cast in the Senate this week.
Mr Obama is scheduled to make a live address from the White House at 9pm, 2am in the UK, as he lays out the case for military action against the Syrian regime.
Iran said it supported the handover plan and offered to help the Syrian government put the weapons under international control. China has also said that it backs the plan.
But Bahrain has warned the proposal would not end the bloodshed in Syria's civil conflict, which according to the UN has left more than 100,000 dead since early 2011.