UK & World News
US Rejects Syria's 30-Day Weapons Deadline
US Secretary of State John Kerry has rejected Syria's pledge to hand over information on its chemical weapons in 30 days.
Speaking at a news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, he noted that it was standard procedure for a country to submit its weapons data a month after signing an international chemical weapons ban.
But he said: "There is nothing standard about this process. The words of the Syrian regime in our judgement are simply not enough."
He warned that the US could still launch a military strike if Syria's President Bashar al Assad reneged on his promises, and said the US was wary of any stalling process.
"There ought to be consequences if it doesn't take place," he warned.
Mr Lavrov, who addressed the briefing first, said: "The solution of this problem makes unnecessary any strikes on Syria. I am sure that our American partners ... are strongly in favour of a peaceful way to regulate chemical weapons in Syria."
Earlier, Mr Assad agreed to sign up to an international agreement that would put his weapons under UN supervision - and said he would hand over information on them in 30 days.
"Syria is placing its chemical weapons under international control because of Russia. The US threats did not influence the decision," he said in the interview with Russian state TV.
Mr Kerry is in Geneva for high-stakes talks with Mr Lavrov to discuss Russia's four-point plan to place Syria's chemical stockpile under international control.
He arrived some hours ago before Mr Lavrov.
Sky's Robert Nisbet, in Geneva, said Mr Lavrov's delay was "embarrassing" for the US and showed Russia has the diplomatic upper hand in the talks.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the plan faced "immense practical difficulties", although obstacles could be overcome "with sufficient international unity and goodwill".
He warned the initiative would require a "complete change of approach" by the Assad regime.
The Russian plan was met with a "definitive rejection" by Salim Idriss, head of the rebel Supreme Military Council, while Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said the Syrian regime had "won time for new massacres".
The first stage of the four-point plan has already been fulfilled - with Syria sending a letter to the UN signing up to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which bans the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons.
The second stage is for Syria to declare what chemical weapons it has. The third is for UN inspectors to visit the country and verify Mr Assad's declaration, and the last stage is for the weapons to be destroyed - either in Syria or abroad.
Meanwhile, Russia's Moskva missile cruiser has reportedly passed through the Straits of Gibraltar and is now heading toward the eastern Mediterranean to assume command of the seven-strong Russian naval force there.
Another two vessels, the landing ship Nikolay Filchenkov and the guard ship Smetlivy, will join the naval unit later, Russia Today added.
The recent deployments are aimed at "complex monitoring" of the situation around Syria, military sources told the Interfax news agency.
The talks between Mr Kerry and Mr Lavrov follow Russian President Vladimir Putin's warning that a US attack on Syria without UN approval would result in more innocent victims and an escalation in violence in the Middle East.
Writing in the New York Times, he said there is "every reason to believe" it was rebel forces, not the Assad regime, who used sarin nerve gas in an attack that killed more than 1,000 people in Damascus on August 21.
He said a strike would "increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism" and claimed America would increasingly be seen "not as a model for democracy but as relying solely on brute force".
White House spokesman Jay Carney said there was "great irony" in Mr Putin placing his opinion piece in the New York Times. He said it reflected a freedom of speech in the US that Russia lacks.
Dr Anna Neistat, an associate director of Human Rights Watch, said: "There is not a single mention in Mr Putin's article ... of the egregious crimes committed by the Syrian government ... (including) deliberate and indiscriminate killings of tens of thousands of civilians, executions, torture, enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests."