(USA TODAY) -- The Syrian government said Monday it welcomes a proposal by Russia to
avoid a U.S. military strike in Damascus by placing its chemical weapons under international monitors.
The statement by Syrian foreign
minister Walid al-Moualem came in response to a proposal put forth
Monday by his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavroy as a way to defuse the
crisis over the use of chemical weapons. The two foreign minister held
talks in Moscow on Monday.
"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," al-Moualem said.
Moualem did not say whether his country would agree to what Russia was asking.
Lavrov, in announcing the proposal, said he hoped to receive a "fast and positive answer."
Russian foreign minister said that if such a move would help avert a
possible U.S. strike on Syria, Russia will start work "immediately" to
persuade Syria to give up the control of its chemical arsenals.
In Washington, the White House said Monday it will "want to take a hard look" at the Russian proposal.
"We'll talk to the Russians about it," said deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken.
told reporters that Russia would urge Syria to concentrate its chemical
weapons in certain areas under international oversight and then
ASSAD: A U.S. attack would bring 'repercussions'
Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Syria to immediately agree
to transfer chemical weapons and chemical precursors to a safe place
within the country for international destruction.
Ban also said he
would urge the Security Council that to demand an immediate chemical
weapons transfer if U.N. inspectors determine that such weapons were
used in an attack Aug. 21 in a suburb of Damascus.
"I am sure that
the international community will take quick measures to make sure that
these chemical weapons reserves are stored in a safe place and are to be
destroyed," Ban Ki-moon said.
The Obama administration has
accused the Assad regime of mounting the attack that killed more than
1,400 people. President Obama has called on Congress to back a limited
strike against Syria in response.
Lavrov, who spoke after
talks Monday with al-Moallem, said that U.N. chemical weapons experts
should complete their probe of the attack and present their findings to
the U.N. Security Council.
"We have agreed to push for the soonest return of inspectors," Lavrov said.
said his government was ready to host the U.N. team, and insisted that
Syria is ready to use all channels to convince the Americans that it
wasn't behind the attack.
He added that Syria was ready for "full cooperation with Russia to remove any pretext for aggression."
is one of only five countries -- including Angola, North Korea, Egypt,
and South Sudan -- that have not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention
drawn up in 1992.
The arms control treaty, signed by 189 country,
bans the use and production of chemical weapons and calls for their
destruction. Myanmar, also known as Burma, and Israel have signed the
agreement, but have not ratified it.
Earlier in London, Secretary of State John Kerry was asked if Assad could do anything to avoid a military strike.
He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the
international community in the next week," he said. "Turn it over. All
of it, without delay. And allow the full and total accounting for that.
But he isn't about to do it."
Later, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki was asked of Kerry's remarks amounted to an ultimatum.'
Kerry was making a rhetorical argument about the impossibility and
unlikelihood of Assad turning over chemical weapons he has denied he
used," she said in a statement. "His point was that this brutal dictator
with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts can not be
trusted to turn over chemical weapons otherwise he would have done so
long ago. That's why the world faces this moment."
In an interview with Charlie Rose for CBS This Morning, Syrian
President Bashar Assad denied using chemical weapons to attack his own
people, but would neither confirm nor deny that his government kept such
weapons. But, he said, if they existed, they were "in centralized
Syria has denied launching the Aug. 21 attack, insisting
along with its ally Russia that the attack was launched by the rebels
to drag the U.S. into war. Assad told CBS that his troops were attacked
by chemical weapons and were not the aggressors.
"Our soldiers in
another area were attacked chemically," he told Rose. "Our soldiers.
They went to the hospital -- as casualties because of chemical weapons."
his call for a negotiated settlement, Lavrov said that Russia will
continue to promote a peaceful settlement and may try to convene a
gathering of all Syrian opposition figures to join in negotiations. He
added that a U.S. attack on Syria would deal a fatal blow to peace
Lavrov wouldn't say how Russia could respond to a
possible U.S. attack on Syria, saying that "we wouldn't like to proceed
from a negative scenario and would primarily take efforts to prevent a
President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow
would keep providing assistance to Syria in case of U.S. attack, but he
and other Russian officials have made clear that Russia has no intention
to engage in hostilities.
Assad, in his interview with CBS, said the U.S. would face "repercussions" in the event of an attack