US-Russia forge deal on Syrian chemical weapons
New York/Geneva: The US and Russia on Saturday agreed on a deal that calls for eliminating Syria's chemical weapons by mid-2014 though President Barack Obama warned the military option was still on the table if diplomacy fails.
The deal was hammered out after nearly three days of intensive talks in Geneva between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Kerry outlined a six-point framework under which Syria must hand over a full list of its stockpile within a week and allow "immediate, unfettered access" to its chemical sites.
Inspectors must be on the ground by November and the stockpiles should be removed or destroyed by mid-2014, he told told reporters at a joint press conference with Lavrov after wrapping up their talks.
However, President Obama warned Bashar al-Assad's regime against using the talks as a "stalling tactic".
"And since this plan emerged only with a credible threat of US military action, we will maintain our military posture in the region to keep the pressure on the Assad regime," he said in his weekly address.
"If diplomacy fails, the US and the international community must remain prepared to act," said Obama, who had been pushing for military intervention in Syria till Russia unveiled its surprise initiative to bring the chemical stockpile under international watch.
After Russia this week proposed its plan, Damascus filed an application to join the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention easing fears of a US-led military strike.
The US holds the embattled regime of President Bashar al-Assad responsible for killing over 1,000 civilians in an alleged chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb on August 21. The Syrian government denies the allegations.