Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem has “welcomed” a request by his Russian counterpart to place Damascus’ chemical weapons stockpile under "international control" in order to prevent military strikes by the U.S.
Moscow’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov made the offer to Muallem during urgent talks in Moscow as the U.S. government and President Barack Obama debate attacking Syria to avenge an alleged chemical gas attack that killed more than 1,400 Syrians that they blame of President Bashar Assad – an act that Washington has decreed in tantamount to a war crime.
Lavrov has called on Syria to "place the chemical weapons under international control and then have them destroyed".
In response, Muallem praised Russia for "attempting to prevent American aggression against our people".
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Europe trying to drum up support among allies for a strike against Syria. Kerry has also demanded that Assad hand over his country’s entire stockpile of chemical weapons by the end of the week.
Ban ki-Moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations, said that he may ask the Security Council to establish a zone in Syria where such chemical weapons could be destroyed.
Syrian officials, including Assad, have denied that the Damascus regime used chemical weapons against its own people.
"You're going to pay the price if you're not wise with dealing with terrorists. There are going to be repercussions," Assad told American television in response to concerns that the US may attack his country.
"You should expect everything. The government [of Syria] is not the only player in this region. You have different parties, different factions, different ideologies. You have everything in this decision now," in an apparent reference to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iran.
The White House rebuked Assad’s warnings.
"It doesn't surprise us that someone who would kill thousands of his own people, including hundreds of children with poison gas, would also lie about it," said spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan.
U.S. intelligence officials think Syria possesses mustard gas and sarin, and that it has also tried to develop VX gas, a more toxic nerve agents. In addition, Damascus is not a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention nor the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention
Jim Muir, a BBC correspondent in Beirut, commented that Syria was warned of retaliations in the event of against any such U.S. strike from Damascus.
Thus far, 100,000 people have died in Syria’s two-and-a-half-year-old civil war.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.