UK & World News
Syria Has One Week To Detail Chemical Weapons
The US and Russia have given Syria one week to submit a "comprehensive list" of its chemical weapons stockpiles - otherwise the US will seek a UN resolution that could authorise military action.
On the final day of talks in Geneva between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov announced that once the details had been handed over the Assad regime would have until November to allow UN inspectors access to the sites.
The destruction of the regime's chemical weapons must then be complete by mid-2014.
"We have committed to a standard that says, 'verify and verify'. Providing this framework is fully implemented it can end the threat these weapons pose not only to the Syrian people but also their neighbours," Mr Kerry said.
"Because of the threat of proliferation, this framework can provide greater protection and security to the world.
"The world will now expect the Assad regime to live up to its commitments ... there can be no room for games. Or anything less than full compliance by the Assad regime ... Syria must allow immediate, unfettered access to chemical sites".
US President Barack Obama said he welcomed the progress made, however General Selim Idriss, the Free Syrian Army chief, said: "We cannot accept any part of this initiative."
Mr Lavrov and Mr Kerry also told journalists their teams of experts had reached "a shared assessment" of President Bashar al Assad's existing stockpile.
The United States has estimated that Syria possesses around 1,000 metric tonnes of various chemical agents, including mustard and sarin gas, sulfur and VX.
The Russian estimates were initially much lower, according to US officials, but Mr Kerry said the two countries had reconciled their different assessments.
A US official later told reporters that Washington believed there were 45 sites across Syria linked to the country's chemical weapons programme.
"Roughly half have exploitable quantities of chemical weapons materials," the official said, adding that all of the sites were currently under the control of the government.
Syria has previously said it will take a month to hand over details of the chemical weapons stockpile.
In his weekly address to the nation, President Obama said the threat of military action still hung over the Assad regime while diplomatic solutions were being pursued.
"We need to see concrete actions to demonstrate that Assad is serious about giving up his chemical weapons," he said.
"And since this plan emerged only with a credible threat of US military action, we will maintain our military posture in the region to keep the pressure on the Assad regime.
"And if diplomacy fails, the United States and the international community must remain prepared to act."
In Geneva, Mr Kerry acknowledged that Syria's civil war, which has killed more than 110,000 people in just over two years, could only be ended through negotiations between the warring parties.
"There is no military solution to the conflict in Syria, it has to be political," Kerry said. "And we together remain committed to getting there."
France welcomed the chemical weapons deal as an "important step forward" and said that talks on Monday in Paris would focus on its implementation.
"The draft agreement reached in Geneva about eliminating the Syrian regime's chemical weapons is an important step forward," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement shortly after the deal was struck.
However, Syria's opposition rejected the US-Russian initiative.
Speaking from Istanbul, the Free Syrian Army's chief said the move would not solve the crisis, claiming Assad's forces had been moving their chemical weapons stockpiles to Lebanon and Iraq over the last few days.
"We in the Free Syrian Army are unconcerned by the implementation of any part of the initiative ... I and my brothers in arms will continue to fight until the regime falls," General Selim Idriss said.
Britain's foreign secretary William Hague tweeted: "Have spoken to Secretary Kerry. UK welcomes US-Russia agreement on #Syria chemical weapons. Urgent work on implementation now to take place."
He added: "The priority must now be full and prompt implementation of the agreement, to ensure the transfer of Syria's chemical weapons to international control.
"The onus is now on the Assad regime to comply with this agreement in full. The international community, including Russia, must hold the regime to account."