US to ‘follow up’ with Russia Syria plan

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The United States plans to “follow up” with Russia to see whether a proposal for Syria to put its chemical weapons under international control is “credible,” a senior US official said Monday.

Ben Rhodes, US deputy national security advisor, told MSNBC that Washington would be interested in the Russian idea “only if it is a credible proposal.”

Russia earlier on Monday proposed the diplomatic initiative urging Syria to put its chemical weapons under international control in the hope that the measure would prevent possible US military action against the Arab country.

The US claimed the Syrian government launched a gas attack on militants stationed in the suburbs of Damascus last month. Syrian authorities categorically rejected the allegation. The government President Bashar al-Assad has said it welcomes the Russian proposal.

Rhodes said, “I think we will just have to follow up with them and with other countries going forward to assess the seriousness of this proposal.”

“At the same time, it is going to be very important that we don’t take the pressure off.”

Rhodes, however, emphasized that Washington does not want to have another “stalling exercise.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, “If the establishment of international control over chemical weapons in (Syria) makes it possible to avoid strikes, then we will immediately get to work with Damascus.”

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, who was in Moscow for talks, told reporters his country would welcome the proposal.

“I state that the Syrian Arab Republic welcomes the Russian initiative, motivated by the Syrian leadership’s concern for the lives of our citizens and the security of our country, and also motivated by our confidence in the wisdom of the Russian leadership, which is attempting to prevent American aggression against our people,” Moualem said through an interpreter, as reported by Reuters.

US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have been trying to gain domestic and international support for limited strikes on targets inside Syria.
Media reports suggest that even international allies of the United States are skeptical of Obama’s war plan in the Middle East.

A recent poll shows that almost 60 percent of Americans oppose any US military action against Syria.

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