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Question of enforcement casts cloud on Syria plan

By Lori Hinnant & Ryan Lucas

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 03:27 p.m. HST, Sep 10, 2013

BEIRUT >> A Russian plan for Syria to turn over its chemical weapons to avert Western missile strikes bogged down today when Moscow rejected U.S. and French demands for a binding U.N. resolution with "very severe consequences" for non-compliance.

The surprise Russian proposal, which Syria and the United States both accepted, would put President Bashar Assad's regime's chemical stockpile under international control before its eventual dismantling. The initiative -- also cautiously endorsed by Britain and France -- appeared to offer a way out of a crisis that raised the prospect of U.S.-led military action against Syria in retaliation for an alleged chemical weapons attack last month.

But the plan ran aground as the world powers haggled over the crucial element of how to enforce it. Wary of falling into what the French foreign minister called "a trap," Paris and Washington are pushing for a U.N. Security Council resolution to verify Syria's disarmament. Russia, a close Assad ally and the regime's chief patron on the international stage, dismissed France's proposal as unacceptable.

The dizzying diplomatic maneuvering threatened what had been growing momentum toward a plan that would allow President Barack Obama to back away from military action. Domestic support for a strike is uncertain in the United States, even as Obama seeks Congress' backing for action -- and there has been little international appetite to join forces against Assad.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said early today during a trip to Moscow that Damascus "agreed to the Russian initiative as it should thwart the U.S. aggression against our country."

Before departing Moscow in the evening, al-Moallem told Lebanon's Al-Mayadeen TV that Syria would place its chemical weapons locations in the hands of representatives of Russia, other unspecified countries and the United Nations. Syria will also declare the chemical arsenal it long denied having, stop producing such weapons and sign conventions against them.

Mindful that Damascus could only be seeking to avoid Western military strikes, France said it would put forward a draft resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, making it enforceable with military action.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the French resolution would demand that Syria open its chemical weapons program to inspection, place it under international control, and ultimately dismantle it. A violation of that commitment, he said, would carry "very serious consequences." The resolution would condemn the Aug. 21 attack and bring those responsible to justice, he said.

"We do not want this to be used as a diversion," Fabius said. "It is by accepting these precise conditions that we will judge the credibility of the intentions expressed yesterday."

Obama threw his support behind the French resolution and discussed the matter with French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron. At the same time, he continued to push his original plan to win congressional authorization for U.S. airstrikes against Assad's regime in case the diplomatic efforts fail. Obama was to address the nation from the White House tonight.

The prospect of a deal that could be enforced militarily met swift opposition from Russia, which has provided economic, military and diplomatic support to Assad throughout the 2 1/2-year conflict.

President Vladimir Putin said the plan can only work if "the American side and those who support the U.S.A, in this sense, reject the use of force." Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told his French counterpart that it is unacceptable for the resolution to cite Chapter 7, the U.N. resolution authorizing force, his ministry said in a statement.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in turn, said the U.S. rejects a Russian suggestion that the U.N. endorsement come in the form of a non-binding statement from the Security Council president.

The U.S. has to have a full resolution -- one that entails "consequences if games are played and somebody tries to undermine this," he said.

Obama is sending Kerry to Geneva to discuss the issue with Russia's foreign minister, a State Department official said. The two are to meet Thursday. The official was not authorized to discuss the mission publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in statement that Lavrov and Kerry spoke by telephone and the two "agreed to continue contacts, including the possibility of holding a personal meeting in the coming days."

The U.S. and its allies have insisted Assad must be punished for last month's chemical weapons attack outside Damascus. The Obama administration, France and others blame the regime, but Damascus says rebels -- not its forces -- were behind the attack. The U.S. has said more than 1,400 Syrians died; even conservative estimates from international organizations put the toll at several hundred.

Obama, who was to deliver a national address on Syria later today, cautiously welcomed the initial Russian proposal. But he said the U.S. is still prepared to go ahead with strikes if it falls through.

"The key is, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, that we don't just trust, but we also verify," Obama told CBS on Monday. "The importance is to make sure that the international community has confidence that these chemical weapons are under control, that they are not being used, that potentially they are removed from Syria and that they are destroyed."

Obama said the idea had been broached in his 20-minute meeting with Putin last week on the sidelines of an economic summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. Obama said he directed Kerry to have more conversations with the Russians and "run this to ground."

What has been left unaddressed in the flurry of diplomacy is the broader civil war in Syria, a conflict that has already claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people and forced more than 6 million Syrians -- nearly a third of the population -- to flee their homes.

The Syrian National Coalition, the main Western-backed opposition group, dismissed the Assad government's turnaround as a maneuver to escape punishment for what it called a crime against humanity. The coalition had been hoping for military strikes from abroad to tip the balance in the war of attrition between rebels and Assad's forces.

In a statement today, the Coalition said Moscow's proposal "aims to procrastinate and will lead to more death and destruction of the Syrian people."

"Crimes against humanity cannot be dropped by giving political concessions or by handing over the weapons used in these crimes," the group said.

The plan would allow Assad to avoid the damage that U.S.-led strikes, no matter how narrow and limited, would likely inflict on a Syrian military already stretched thin and under tremendous strain from the civil war. While Assad would be forced to relinquish his chemical arms stockpile, doing so is unlikely to deal a devastating blow to his war machine.

Nor is it likely to stanch the bloodshed. The U.S. and the Syrian opposition accuse the regime of using such weapons on several occasions, but the casualties from those attacks have been a mere fraction of the total death toll from the conflict.

"What does it change if you take the chemical weapons from Bashar Assad? Does it stop the real danger?" asked Loay al-Mikdad, a spokesman for the Western-backed Free Syrian Army. "He's not just killing us with chemical weapons. Bashar Assad is killing us with all of his weapons, by all his forces."

Hinnant reported from Paris. Jamey Keaten in Paris, David Rising in Berlin, Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Zeina Karam in Beirut, and Christopher Bodeen in Beijing contributed to this report.

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allie wrote:
Let us pray for peACE. A strike would do little or nothing except kill more innocents.
on September 10,2013 | 06:25AM
Hawaiians wrote:
Absolutely we need to stand together for peace, how is striking going to solve anything, it will just add to the peoples already existing problems. There has to be another solution, another war isn't the answer and we don't have the resources to jump in other countries mess unless they are posing a real threat to America.
on September 10,2013 | 11:50AM
manakuke wrote:
Thank you Vlad.
on September 10,2013 | 06:32AM
lokela wrote:
Obama does not have to reach back into history on these matters. This is modern day times. The world and people are different. They have their own civil war. Let them hash it out. We hashed out our own civil war if you want to look back into history. Let's help the USA for a change.
on September 10,2013 | 06:35AM
DABLACK wrote:
Its a start....now time to "walk the talk".
on September 10,2013 | 06:36AM
Skyler wrote:
Sure is. Striking them would still be a mistake, though.
on September 10,2013 | 11:18AM
Publicbraddah wrote:
KSSK's Michael W. Perry said this morning that Kerry made an 'accidental' statement when he suggested turning over chemical weapons as a solution. WHAT??? Does Perry have an inside scoop or is he just ranting? How does he know it was an accidental slip of the tongue? I think America was looking at a way out of this mess. Americans do not want to get involved in another war and yet most Americans are disgusted that chemical weapons were used and agree that serious action must be taken against Syria. I think Americans also understand that the Syrian opposition has Al Quaida influences and if they take over, the situation will be even worse. This is a tough, tough situation to be in for America but the turning over of chemical weapons could save face for us. This was no 'accident', Michael.
on September 10,2013 | 06:42AM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
Perry gets everything from the Drudge Report. The dude has not had an original thought or idea in decades.
on September 10,2013 | 08:41AM
Skyler wrote:
You do know that Matt Drudge is a news aggregator and "Drudge Report" is not an opinion site, correct?
on September 10,2013 | 11:21AM
Skyler wrote:
Read up on it. It was accidental and has nothing to do with news aggregator Matt Drudge (author of Drudge Report).
on September 10,2013 | 11:19AM
inverse wrote:
Gave up listening to Perry and Price years ago. Perry is a Hannity wannabe and Price is in another room from the studio taking a nap while Perry goes on his conservative rants.
on September 10,2013 | 01:20PM
boshio wrote:
This is a lessen for all the old gizzards in congress whos solution is always war. Time for a new congress going forward.
on September 10,2013 | 06:51AM
LanaAloha wrote:
War is not the answer here! I'm embarrassed the U.S. wasn't the one proposing a diplomatic solution.
on September 10,2013 | 07:16AM
jayz43 wrote:
Nancy Pelosi: "Thanks to Pres. Obama's strength, we have a Russian proposal." Our President's strength saved the day.
on September 10,2013 | 09:11AM
hanalei395 wrote:
There were two "old gizzards" in Congress who voted against the authorizition, against the Iraq War; both vets and one a Medal of Honor recipient: Senators Akaka and Inouye.
on September 10,2013 | 08:56AM
scooters wrote:
Better than staring another war. However, Obama, needs to force their hand to do this by saying, If you don't turn them over, we'll strike. Period.
on September 10,2013 | 07:06AM
jayz43 wrote:
Didn't he use "PERIOD" in an earlier promise to us with health care? "If you want to keep your present heath care or doctor, you can keep it. PERIOD." He is known for saying what he means, and meaning what he says....PERIOD.
on September 10,2013 | 09:14AM
HD36 wrote:
It's not enough for the House of Saud. They want a complete regimine change and will pay 100% of the military costs. Quatar wants their gas pipeline to run through Syria to supply Europe. Not enough.
on September 10,2013 | 07:21AM
Skyler wrote:
From what I'm reading on the larger issue, it's also not enough for Israel. They want provocation to stir Iran, so the US will be forced to start the 'final fight' with Iran for them. I hope that is not true, but gosh when you read below the MSM surface... wow.
on September 10,2013 | 11:23AM
loquaciousone wrote:
This would be a good alternative only IF you trust Assad and Putin.
on September 10,2013 | 07:29AM
kuroiwaj wrote:
And why did the rebels, El Quaida and Muslim Brotherhood, reject the Russian and Syrian plan? Putin checkmated Obama.
on September 10,2013 | 07:54AM
cojef wrote:
Why wasn't this proposed by the UN way back when the civil war broke out. This world body is like a parasite existing on the largesses from the membership. Perhaps our contributions are merely to keep that body mute so that we could bully our way in world affairs. Misquote or slip of the tongue, it matters not if it precludes us from yet engage in another no-win situation. Since the end of WW II, we have been sending our troops in harms way too many times. We need to look inward and observe how many of our young people that were sacraficed for our so called noble deeds to right the wrongs that were occurring through out the world. But then take a second look, when all the genocide were being committed in Africa, where we have no financial interests, we ignored and did not get involved. "Selective Humanity" is our by line, we pick and choose where and when we want to get involved. Self-appraisal is in order.
on September 10,2013 | 08:00AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Russia is seen as the new diplomatic power; the US is seen as a war monger. Nice job by the State Department and Administration.
on September 10,2013 | 08:04AM
808comp wrote:
Hope there is no strings attached. The Russians may want something in return. The US should keep all the warships in place until the entire deal has been completed.
on September 10,2013 | 08:26AM
JAFO wrote:
Where are the hollywood stars that came out against Bush for going to war? Their silence is defining. Truth is. it has everything to do with being Democrat or Republican!, nothing else.
on September 10,2013 | 09:11AM
TLehel wrote:
Ha wow this whole peaceful way of this situation was Russia's idea, yet somehow they're trying to make it look like Obama somehow influenced that somehow. Yeah right! He wants to blow stuff up so we can all be distracted from what's really going on. Did you know that just recently a nuke was transported out of Dyess Air Force Base to South Carolina? Then soon after that Senator Graham made a speach warning that South Carolina (specifially Charlotte) could be a target for a nuclear strike. I'm banking that if Assad hands over his chemical weapons, which he will because he hasn't used them and has no reason to use them in his civil war, then another false flag op may go down in our own country. The scum we're dealing with isn't out of country, it's in our own. The same people who want to put LITHIUM IN OUR WATER SUPPLY. Wake up people, please.
on September 10,2013 | 10:22AM
hanalei395 wrote:
I'm an Obama supporter, however, there will be OTHER Obama supporters who will mouth with this BS ...."Syria blinked". Obama haters, as of now, are undecided of what to splutter.
on September 10,2013 | 01:09PM
TLehel wrote:
I'm decided. Syria has their own civil war to deal with and doesn't need the US AIDING OUR OWN ENEMY to "punish" Assad for chemical weapons he didn't even use. Keep blindly following your authority. When our real enemies are revealed it will be too late for you to realize all the wrong and take action upon our own government. Cause they will have already taken your guns in a "state of emergency", just as they did in New Orleans. Of course you may not even believe in the second ammendment at this point. You've been brainwashed by these imperial globalists for far too long. I know the FACTS that the general public should wake up and see. Question your authority. It may just save this country. . . .and quite possibly your life.
on September 10,2013 | 02:43PM
hanalei395 wrote:
"I'm decided" .........Which means, you have decided what to splutter.
on September 10,2013 | 03:01PM
sailfish1 wrote:
Make it work without fighting!! After all the U.S. blunders in wars, try to do something without starting another war!
on September 10,2013 | 11:04AM
Skyler wrote:
That'd sure be ideal, wouldn't it?
on September 10,2013 | 11:24AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Who's going to monitor? The United Nothing or the all around honest good guy Putin?
on September 10,2013 | 12:46PM
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