UK & World News
Syria: Sides 'Close' On Chemical Stash Size
The US and Russia are coming closer to agreeing the size of Syria's chemical weapons haul as talks between the countries' top diplomats reach a "pivotal point".
Russian estimates are believed to have been much lower than the US government's figure of around 1,000 tonnes.
But the two sides have now "made progress in coming closer to agreement on the scope of the chemical weapons stockpile," according to a senior US official.
Negotiations between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are entering a third day, after breaking up at around 2am on Saturday morning.
The Geneva talks come as United Nations chief Ban Ki-Moon said that the Syrian President Bashar Assad had "committed many crimes against humanity".
Speaking on Friday, he said he believed an upcoming UN report would be "overwhelming" in confirming chemical weapons were used in Syria.
The report, expected next week, is not allowed to officially say who was responsible for the August 21 attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta.
The US believes more than 1,400 people were killed in the poison gas attack but the Syrian regime denies the claims and says rebel forces were responsible.
A Russian four-point plan to put Syria's chemical weapons under international control managed to avert a US vote on military action earlier this week.
However, the practicalities of the plan - which would see the stockpile eventually being destroyed - are still being hammered out by Mr Kerry and Mr Lavrov.
The pair were joined in their discussions on Friday by the UN and Arab League special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi.
Tensions remain over issues such as the timescale for the plan and whether any UN resolution on giving up the weapons would be backed by the threat of force.
The US would like the option of strikes to be written into any resolution but Russia is certain to veto any such a move.
If the two sides can reach an acceptable agreement then it bodes well for wider 'Geneva 2' talks which could discuss a way to end the Syrian civil war.
Mr Kerry said he planned to meet Mr Lavrov again at the UN General Assembly in New York later this month, with the hope of setting a date for the peace conference.
Syria has already applied to join the Chemical Weapons Convention - the first stage of Russia's plan - but Syria's opposition National Coalition has said it is "deeply sceptical" about the move.
The international convention bans the production, use and stockpiling of chemical weapons.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Office has confirmed that British Foreign Secretary William Hague will hold fresh discussions with Mr Kerry and French foreign minister Laurent Fabius.
The trio will meet in Paris on Monday.
Mr Kerry's diplomatic drive also travels to Israel on Sunday for a brief meeting with the country's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
The political wrangling comes as conventional fighting - such as rocket attacks and gun battles - continues in many of Syria's devastated towns and cities.
The civil war has claimed more than 100,000 lives and created more than two million refugees, according to recent UN figures.