Syria hopes rise as Russia hands weapons plan to US

A Syrian military solider fires a heavy machine gun during clashes with rebels in Maaloula village, northeast of the capital Damascus, Syria. AP Photo/SANA
Russia has now handed over to the US its plans for making Syria\’s chemical weapons safe, Russian media say.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry are scheduled to meet in the Swiss city on Thursday to discuss the proposal. They spoke by telephone on Wednesday.
One Russian source told the Itar-Tass news agency the meeting would be bilateral and not involve the UN.
Sergei Lavrov gave no details of the proposal but said he would discuss it with Kerry during their meetings. Kerry has said reaching any agreement on a chemical weapons plan would be "exceedingly difficult."
A team of U.S. arms experts will accompany the top U.S. diplomat, who will also meet with U.N.-Arab League special envoy on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, while in Geneva.
Meanwhile, envoys from the five permanent veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — prepared to discuss a proposed U.N. resolution that aims to ensure the Russian plan is implemented quickly.
Moscow already has rejected key elements of what the U.S. and France say must be a binding U.N. resolution, including tough language allowing military force against Syria to ensure compliance.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said earlier Wednesday that the failure to halt atrocities in Syria had become a new stain on the reputation of the world body and the Security Council powers.
In a speech Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama referred to the Russian proposal and Syria\’s reported agreement as "encouraging signs," but also stressed that the U.S. military would be ready to respond if diplomacy fails.
Under the deal, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad\’s government would surrender its chemical weapons to the United Nations to have them destroyed, and the United States would put off its plans for a military strike.
Obama asked Congress to postpone a vote authorizing military action against Syria to let the diplomatic initiatives play out.
Iran and China, which have opposed outside military intervention in Syria, expressed optimism about the diplomatic path on Wednesday.
More than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict, and the UN refugee agency says about one third of Syria\’s pre-war population of 20.8 million have fled their homes, either to other countries or safer areas within Syria.
Source: Agencies
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