Syrian prime minister agrees to Russian proposal on chemical weapons

Wael al-Halki says he will back initiative "to spare Syrian blood"; Interfax news agency quotes Syrian FM as telling Russia's lower house of parliament in Moscow; Kremlin says Putin, Obama discussed idea last week.

Wael al-Halki (photo credit: REUTERS)
Wael al-Halki
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BEIRUT- Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halki said on Tuesday his country supported a Russian proposal for Damascus to give up chemical weapons to avoid a possible US military strike.
Syrian state television quoted Halki as saying the government backed the initiative in order "to spare Syrian blood".
Interfax news agency earlier reported that Syria's foreign minister had told the speaker of Russia's parliament in Moscow that Syria accepted the proposal.
"We held a very fruitful round of talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday, and he proposed an initiative relating to chemical weapons. And in the evening we agreed to he Russian initiative," Interfax quoted the minister, Walid al-Moualem, as telling the speaker of Russia's lower parliament house in Moscow.
He said Syria had agreed because this would "remove the grounds for American aggression," the report said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama discussed the idea of placing Syria's chemical weapons arsenal under international control on the sidelines of a G20 summit last week, Putin's spokesman said on Tuesday.
"The issue was discussed," spokesman Dmitry Peskov said by telephone. He would not say who raised the issue or give other details.
Russia announced its proposal to put Syrian chemical weapons under international control on Monday. Hours earlier, US Secretary of State John Kerry had said Syrian President Bashar Assad could avoid a US military strike by surrendering all his chemical weapons within a week but added that Assad "isn't about to do it and it can't be done.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron wants Russia and Syria to demonstrate that the Moscow-backed proposal for Assad to put his chemical weapons under international control is genuine, Cameron's spokesman said on Tuesday.
"The onus is very much now on the Russian government and the Assad regime to follow up in a way to show that the initiative is a serious and genuine offer," the spokesman said, adding many serious questions remained to be answered.