Syria’s government has filed its first chemical-arms disclosure as a member of an international regime seeking the global elimination of toxic-warfare substances, a multilateral enforcement body said on Friday.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said its technical experts were reviewing the data provided by Damascus. “We have received part of the verification and we expect more,” Reuters on Friday quoted an OPCW spokesman as saying. An unidentified U.N. diplomat added that the documentation is “quite long … and being translated.”
The group separately announced a delay to a planned meeting of the 41-nation OPCW Executive Council. The gathering — previously slated for Sunday — was to confer on a fleshed-out plan for verifying Syria’s declared chemical-warfare stocks.
The White House on Thursday attempted to shore up pressure on the Syrian government to turn over details this week on its chemical arsenal, the first in a series of recently negotiated steps toward destroying the arms and averting U.S. military strikes against the regime. The admonishment followed signals from Washington that the cutoff date had become less firm.
The United States expects Bashar Assad’s government to “abide by the timeline in the framework” that Washington hammered out with Moscow last week, “and for Russia to hold the Assad regime to account,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. “We will evaluate Syria’s seriousness about compliance based on a variety of benchmarks, and the first one is this seven-day deadline.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said Damascus so far appears to have “completely agreed with our plan,” the Los Angeles Times reported. “But I can’t say whether we will manage to complete the process by 100 percent.”
The Assad regime’s Friday chemical-weapons filing came days after OPCW officials confirmed the government’s accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which is set to enter into force for Damascus on Oct. 14.
A Syrian government diplomat in an interview floated a potential cease-fire with Assad’s opponents, the London Guardian reported on Thursday. A Western-backed opposition group, though, on Friday said the proposal lacked credibility and had to be backed by a “comprehensive peace plan,” CBS News reported.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday said the U.N. Security Council “must be prepared to act next week” on a resolution to back the U.S.-Russian framework.
“We have to recognize that the world is watching to see whether we can avert military action and achieve, through peaceful means, even more than what those military strikes promised,” he said in a Thursday statement to reporters.
Kerry played down questions raised by Russia over the credibility of a recently released U.N. investigation into allegations of chemical strikes in the country. The Obama administration and a number of independent analysts have said the findings strongly suggest Assad’s forces had carried out an Aug. 21 sarin nerve agent strike in the suburbs of Damascus, but Moscow has joined the Syrian government in attributing the incident to opposition fighters.
“We really don’t have time today to pretend that anyone can have their own set of facts approaching the issue of chemical weapons in Syria,” Kerry said. “For many weeks, we heard from Russia and from others, ‘Wait for the U.N. report. Those are the outside experts.’ That’s a quote.”
To have carried out the attack, rebels would have had to “secretly [gone] unnoticed into territory they don’t control to fire rockets they don’t have containing sarin that they don’t possess to kill their own people,” he said. “Then without even being noticed,” the opposition forces would have had to dismantle the equipment and leave “the center of Damascus, controlled by Assad.”
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In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."
Conrad Burns, the colorful livestock auctioneer and radio executive from Montana who served three terms as a senator, died on Thursday at age 81. Burns "was ousted from office in 2006 under the specter of scandal after developing close ties to "super-lobbyist" Jack Abramoff," although no charges were ever filed.
In an exchange not ripped from the page of The Onion, Vice President Biden revealed to a Vatican cardinal that he's been betting reporters on which cars are faster. After meeting privately with Pope Francis, Biden met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State. Within moments of greeting one another, Biden said that he'd met with the pope and, gesturing to the press pool, "I've met with these guys too." Singling out reporter Gardiner Harris, who recounted the exchange, he said, "I had to pay this man $10. He's from the New York Times. We had a bet: which is the faster car, the newer Cadillac or the new [Tesla]. ... The Tesla's two tenths of a second faster. But I lost. I paid my $10." He joked that he's "seeking absolution."
Donald Trump held his first rally in California Thursday night, and things were chaotic: "Hundreds of demonstrators filled the street outside the Orange County amphitheater where ... stomping on cars, hurling rocks at motorists and forcefully declaring their opposition to the Republican presidential candidate. Traffic came to a halt as a boisterous crowd walked in the roadway, some waving American and Mexican flags. Protesters smashed a window on at least one police cruiser, punctured the tires of a police sport utility vehicle, and at one point tried to flip a police car."