UK & World News
Syria: UN Accuses Assad As Obama Backtracks
Russia has given the US its plan for placing Syria's chemical weapons under international control, after President Barack Obama delayed a vote on air strikes.
Russia's Interfax news agency reported that the proposals had been handed over ahead of the meeting in Geneva on Thursday between the country's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, and US Secretary of State John Kerry.
It followed an address to the nation from Mr Obama, who said he had asked Congress to postpone any decision on military action so a diplomatic solution could be pursued.
A UN report was released on Wednesday that confirmed at least eight massacres had been carried out in Syria by President Bashar al Assad's regime and one by rebels over the past 18 months.
The UN commission investigating human rights abuses in Syria described the country as a battlefield where "massacres are perpetrated with impunity," and said it was looking into nine more suspected mass killings since March.
Despite Mr Obama's decision to postpone the Congress vote, he said he remained cautious about Russia's plan for Syria to declare its chemical weapons - saying it was "too early to tell" if an agreement could be reached.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al Moallem said the regime was ready to co-operate fully with the Russian proposal to put its chemical weapons under international control, and would stop producing more.
But Mr Obama has ordered the US military to maintain its current posture to keep the pressure on Mr Assad's regime should diplomacy fail.
He said: "Any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitments. But this initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force."
Mr Obama once again ruled out putting American "boots on the ground", but added that with "modest effort and risks", limited strikes could make Syria safer and would ensure against the US sliding into another prolonged war.
He added: "The purpose of this strike would be to deter Assad from using chemical weapons, to degrade his regime's ability to use them and to make clear to the world that we will not tolerate their use."
White House spokesman Jay Carney told a news conference he expected the diplomatic process to take "some time".
He said: "There is no question that the credible threat of US military force brought us this diplomatic opening."
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted by state TV as saying: "We hope that the new US attitude toward Syria would be a serious policy and not a media campaign.
"The latest developments, if they can be taken seriously, show that they (US and its allies) have stepped back from the inconsiderate and mistaken actions that they had taken in the past few weeks."
At the United Nations, Britain, France and the US discussed elements of a draft Security Council resolution that would include a timeline for Syria to declare the full extent of its poison gas arsenal and to cede control of it to the UN.
An official close to French president Francois Hollande said tense negotiations had begun on a proposed resolution.
They said Russia objected not only to making the resolution militarily enforceable, but also to blaming the Syrian government for the chemical attack on August 21 that sparked the recent crisis and any demand that those responsible for the attack be taken before an international court.
Russian President Vladimir Putin previously insisted the handover of weapons would only work if the US rejected a use of force against Syria.
Sky Moscow Correspondent Katie Stallard said: "Russia would be quite content for this now to get bogged down at the UN Security Council, because they are keenly aware here that there's a clock ticking down all the while, that President Obama is making his case for military action now."
It comes after the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Syrian government forces and rebel fighters were both preventing medical assistance from reaching the wounded.