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US must stop threats, says Bashar-al-Assad

13 September, 2013

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MOSCOW/BEIRUT: President Bashar-al-Assad said on Thursday Syria plans to give up its chemical weapons, and demanded in return that Washington drop threats of military action and stop arming rebels.

In an interview aired by the Rossiya 24 channel as Russia and the United States began talks in Geneva over the plan for Syria to give up its chemical arsenal, Assad said he was ready to comply, but would not do so unilaterally.

"Syria will be sending an appeal to the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in a few days, which will have technical documents necessary to sign the agreement," Assad said in remarks translated from Arabic.

The convention would go into effect "one month after signing", at which point "Syria will begin passing data about chemical weapons stockpiles to international organisations," he said. He warned that Syria will not "carry out these mechanisms unilaterally", saying the United States must call off plans for military intervention.

"It does not mean that Syria will sign the documents, fulfil the terms and that will be all," he said, calling the plan a "two-way process" with Washington required to "stop the politics of threats in relation to Syria."

"When we see that the United States truly desires stability in our region and stops threatening and seeking to invade, as well as stopping arms supplies to terrorists, then we can believe that we can follow through with the necessary processes," he said.

Assad denied that his regime forces were behind the chemical weapons attack that killed 1,400 people including hundreds of children near Damascus and accused Washington of involvement.

"The US threats... to strike Syria were based on allegations of chemical weapons use in Ghouta (a Damascus suburb). These allegations were propagated by the US administration," he said.

Speaking in Damascus in the room where he was interviewed by American television host Charlie Rose just days before, Assad said that Syria was pursuing the chemical disarmament plan because of Russia's proposal, not because of threats of military intervention.

Assad added that he has "trusting relations" with Russia, and Moscow would have to play a key role in the negotiation process.

"We don't have any trust or communication with the United States. Russia is the only state that can carry out this role today," he said.

Meanwhile, the rebel Free Syrian Army categorically rejected on Thursday a Russian proposal for placing Syria's chemical arms under international control, and called for regime officials to be brought to justice.

The Syrian National Coalition opposition group also questioned the initiative, calling it a "political manoeuvre aimed at buying time" for the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

"The Free Syrian Army announces its categorical rejection of the Russian initiative that foresees placing chemical weapons under international control," FSA military commander General Selim Idriss said in a video posted on YouTube.

Idriss told world powers they should not "be satisfied only by removing the chemical weapon, which is the tool of a crime, but judge the author of the crime before the International Criminal Court, who has clearly acknowledged possessing it and agreed to get rid of it."


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