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US, Russia Reach Syrian Chemical Arms Deal

The United States and Russia have agreed on a framework for ending

Syria's chemical- weapons program. The agreement was announced by U.S.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia Foreign Minister Sergei

Lavrov on Saturday as they wrapped up talks in Geneva. The plan

requires Syria to make a full declaration within a week listing all of

its chemical-weapons storage and production sites. It calls for the

destruction of chemical arms production and mixing equipment by

November and the elimination or removal from Syria of all

chemical-weapons material and equipment by the middle of 2014. U.S.

and Russian officials agreed to push for a U.N. resolution enforcing

the plan without threatening military action. Kerry said if Syria does

not comply with the agreement, the U.S. could request a U.N. Security

Council "Chapter 7" resolution, which authorizes punitive action.

Lavrov said the deal does not include anything about potential use of

force. Lavrov, who disputes President Assad's responsibility for last

month's attack, says the deal holds Syrian rebels to the same

standards. Plan could avert US military strike During the three days

of talks, U.S. and Russian officials agreed that Syria currently holds

about 1,000 metric tons of chemical agents and precursors including

sulfur mustard and sarin gas. U.S. officials believe there are about

45 storage sites holding those munitions and related equipment, but

they also say Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime may have

shifted the location of parts of its arsenal. Story continues below

photo gallery: Syrian compliance with the agreement could avert a U.S.

military strike in retaliation for the Syrian government's alleged

poison-gas attack on civilians last month near Damascus. The United

States says more than 1,400 people died in the attack, and that it has

conclusive evidence showing the Syrian regime was responsible. The

Assad government contends rebels carried out the attack. U.S.

President Barack Obama welcomed the framework agreement with Russia,

calling it "an important, concrete step." But, he added, there is much

more work to be done. In a statement Saturday, Obama said the U.S.

will continue working with its allies and Russia to ensure there is a

verifiable process of identifying and dismantling Syria's stockpile of

banned weapons, and that there will be consequences if Assad's

government does not comply. Mixed reactions U.N. Secretary-General Ban

Ki-moon said he is looking forward to learning more about the

framework agreement, and pledged the support of the United Nations in

its implementation. Ban said he hopes the agreement will prevent any

further use of chemical weapons in Syria, and that it can help pave

the path for a political solution to the civil war and "stop the

appalling suffering inflicted on the Syrian people" since 2011. France

and Britain hailed the agreement Saturday. French Foreign Minister

Laurent Fabius and British Foreign Secretary William Hague will meet

in Paris with Secretary of State Kerry on Monday to discuss the

agreement in detail. European Union foreign- policy chief Catherine

Ashton said a number of EU states have the technical capacity to

assist in securing and dismantling chemical weapons sites in Syria.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said thanks to the deal between the

United States and Russia, there is a chance once more for a political

solution to the Syrian crisis. The head of the rebel Free Syrian Army

said his group rejects the deal reached in Geneva, and believes Russia

and the Syrian regime were merely "playing games to waste time."

Speaking to reporters in Istanbul, General Selim Idriss said his

forces will continue fighting against Assad's government. Syria's main

Western-backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC),

elected longtime political activist Ahmad Tumeh its new prime minister

as it seeks to boost its standing as a credible political alternative

in the civil war- stricken country. SNC members have previously

dismissed prior diplomatic efforts to address Syria's chemical weapons

and said the plan gives the Syrian army free rein to fight on with

conventional weapons. In Washington, two prominent Republican senators

had a sharply critical initial reaction to the Kerry-Lavrov plan. They

predicted it would turn out to be "meaningless" unless it explicitly

raises the possibility of the use of military force against Syria. In

a joint statement, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham

characterized the deal as "an act of provocative weakness" on

America's part. The two senators said the agreement does not resolve

Syria's "real problem" — the civil conflict that has resulted in over

100,000 deaths. UN investigation A long-awaited United Nations report

on Syria's alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians in August is

due out Monday. Secretary-General Ban Ki- Moon has said the findings,

based in site visits, boxes of evidence and eye witness accounts,

"will be an overwhelming report that the chemical weapons was used."

[REUTERS]

Kofi Oppong Kyekyeku

I am a Ghanaian Broadcast Journalist/Writer who has an interest in General News, Sports, Entertainment, Health, Lifestyle and many more.

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