Syrian President Bashar Assad's top envoy on Tuesday said Damascus has agreed to give up its chemical arsenal in a bid to avert a possible U.S. strike, USA Today reported.
The government in Damascus on Monday "held a round of very fruitful negotiations with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and he put forward an initiative regarding chemical weapons. Already in the evening we accepted Russia's initiative," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said.
Assad's government acceded to the request in order to "derail the U.S. aggression," al-Moualem said.
France is developing a U.N. Security Council proposal aimed at implementing the Russian initiative, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius suggested the measure would serve to clarify the positions of Moscow and Beijing. The two governments so far have prevented the 15-nation body from approving punitive measures against Damascus for its tactics in the Syrian civil war, now in its third year.
It still was uncertain if Russia would agree to the French text, according to the Post. Moscow has questioned Western assertions that Assad's regime employed nerve gas last month in an attack that U.S. officials contend was responsible for more than 1,400 deaths.
President Obama, who is set to give a televised speech on Syria on Tuesday evening, on Monday said his administration "will pursue this diplomatic track."
"I fervently hope that this can be resolved in a nonmilitary way," he told Fox News in an interview -- one among a half-dozen television appearances the president made on Monday aimed at generating public and congressional support for his Syria approach.
"I have instructed John Kerry to talk directly to the Russians and run this to ground," Obama told the "PBS NewsHour." "And if we can exhaust these diplomatic efforts and come up with a formula that gives the international community a verifiable, enforceable mechanism to deal with these chemical weapons in Syria, then I’m all for it."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday delayed a vote previously planned for Wednesday on authorizing the use of military force against Assad's regime.
This article was published in Global Security Newswire, which is produced independently by National Journal Group under contract with the Nuclear Threat Initiative. NTI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group working to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.