MOSCOW - Moscow has received "firm assurances" from Damascus that its Syrian chemical arsenal is "fully safeguarded", Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told the state-owned Itar-Tass news agency.

"We have received firm assurances from Damascus that the security of this arsenal is fully safeguarded," Gatilov told the agency in an interview published on Wednesday.

Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi acknowledged on Monday that the country had chemical weapons, and Western countries and Israel have expressed fears chemical weapons could fall into the hands of militant groups as Assad's authority erodes.

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