The United States on Wednesday indicated it no longer expects Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime to fully disclose its chemical-warfare assets this week, an expectation established several days ago under a U.S.-Russian plan for Damascus to eventually relinquish the stocks, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“Our goal is to see forward momentum,” but not necessarily a full declaration, before Sunday, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. “We’ve never said it was a hard and fast deadline,” the spokeswoman added.
Several days ago, Secretary of State John Kerry said he and Russia’s top diplomat had decided Damascus would have one week to provide “a comprehensive listing” of its chemical-weapon assets. Washington would permit “no games, no room for avoidance, or anything less than full compliance,” he said then.
A senior Russian diplomat on Wednesday said Damascus “within a week” would send a chemical-arms declaration to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, ITAR-Tass reported. The Russian state-owned news agency did not specify whether the information would amount to a complete disclosure.
The 41-nation OPCW Executive Council is set on Friday to begin discussing formal procedures for eliminating the Assad government’s chemical arsenal, the Wall Street Journal reported. One expert said the council is likely to adopt a U.S.-Russian timeline calling for full destruction of the stockpile by the middle of next year, though the multilateral body is not obligated to do so.
Separately, Moscow intends by Friday to circulate Syrian-government indications that Assad’s opponents have carried out chemical strikes, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said in Thursday remarks quoted by ITAR-Tass.
In a Wednesday interview with Fox News, Assad challenged Washington to foot the bill for destroying the arms and “take the responsibility of bringing toxic materials to the United States,” Reuters reported. He also reaffirmed denials that his government had used its chemical arms in the Syrian civil war, now in its third year.
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The House has completed it's business for 2016 by passing a spending bill which will keep the government funded through April 28. The final vote tally was 326-96. The bill's standing in the Senate is a bit tenuous at the moment, as a trio of Democratic Senators have pledged to block the bill unless coal miners get a permanent extension on retirement and health benefits. The government runs out of money on Friday night.
The Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act today, sending the $618 billion measure to President Obama. The president vetoed the defense authorization bill a year ago, but both houses could override his disapproval this time around.
"President-elect Donald Trump railed against the Trans-Pacific Partnership on his way to winning the White House and has vowed immediately to withdraw the U.S. from the 12-nation accord. Several of his cabinet picks and other early nominees to top posts, however, have endorsed or spoken favorably about the trade pact, including Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, announced Wednesday as Mr. Trump’s pick for ambassador to China, and retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, Mr. Trump’s pick to head the Department of Defense."