World | Crisis In Syria

Breakthrough? Syria Hints It Might Give Up Chemical Weapons

NPR | Sept. 10, 2013 1:04 p.m.

Contributed By:

Mark Memmott

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In Washington, D.C., this week, there have been demonstrations both in favor of, and against, a military strike on targets in Syria. Outside the White House on Monday, supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad waved a Syrian flag with his face on it.

In Washington, D.C., this week, there have been demonstrations both in favor of, and against, a military strike on targets in Syria. Outside the White House on Monday, supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad waved a Syrian flag with his face on it.

Jewel Samad, AFP/Getty Images

France on Tuesday will put a resolution before the U.N. Security Council that calls on Syria to hand over its chemical weapons to international monitors and “accept that they will be dismantled,” France 24 reports.

Word about the resolution comes from French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. It follows the dramatic events of Monday, which as NPR’s Corey Flintoff explained on Morning Edition, began when Secretary of State John Kerry said Syrian President Bashar Assad might be able to head off a U.S. military strike if he turns over “every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week.”

Within hours of Kerry’s comment, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was saying he had urged his Syrian counterpart to do that. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem then said his nation welcomed the Russian suggestion. Finally, President Obama capped the day by telling U.S. TV networks that he favors a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Now, along with the news about the resolution that France will put before the Security Council — which might win support from Russia and China — there’s word from Russia’s Interfax news agency that “Syria accepts” the Russian proposal to put its chemical weapons under international control.

The Russian news outlet RT.com reports that, according to Interfax, the Syrian foreign minister said Tuesday that “we accepted Russia’s initiative.”

Meanwhile, on CBS This Morning, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said he is “very skeptical” about reports that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime has accepted Russia’s proposal. “We should be [skeptical],” said McCain, who favors a military response to Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons. “Assad has refused to acknowledge that he even has chemical weapons.”

Still, McCain added, perhaps Assad wouldn’t even consider accepting such a plan “if it hadn’t been for the threat of a military strike.”

The Obama administration says intelligence gathered about an attack near Damascus last month indicates that forces loyal to Assad were behind the launching of missiles carrying deadly Sarin gas. The administration says it believes more than 1,400 people were killed and even more were injured.

On Tuesday, the independent organization Human Rights Watch issued a report sayingit has concluded that “available evidence strongly suggests that Syrian government forces were responsible.”

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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