Syria confirms it has chemical weapons

The Wall Street Journal reports: Syria said it would cease production of chemical weapons and disclose the locations of its stockpiles to the United Nations, Russia and others, as Damascus seized on a possible diplomatic route to avert international military action.

The statement by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem represented the first direct admission by the Syrian government that it possesses chemical weapons. Mr. Moallem said Syria aimed to sign the international convention banning chemical weapons.

The offer came as Syria’s ally Russia clashed with France over a possible U.N. Security Council resolution aimed at forcing Syria to hand over its stockpiles, following what the U.S. and France said was the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons in an attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21.

Syria has denied a role in the attack, blaming opposition rebels in the country’s 2½-year old civil war.

President Barack Obama has mounted a campaign at home and abroad for support for military action to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for the attacks.

That campaign, and U.S. congressional debate over supporting military action, have been sidetracked by a Russian proposal that led to Syria’s unexpected offer.

Mr. Obama has agreed to explore the possibility of a Syrian chemical-weapons handover, the White House said, even as he continued to seek support for a U.S. military strike from a reluctant Congress.

Mr. Obama traveled to the Capitol to meet with Senate Democrats and Republicans on Tuesday, ahead of a prime-time speech to make his case to the American public. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel again testified on Capitol Hill to press the case for military action.

Secretary of State John Kerry warned Tuesday that it would be “exceedingly difficult” for Syria to meet the international community’s conditions for giving up its chemical weapons and avoiding a threatened U.S. military strike.

But a new international debate also took shape over a possible U.N. resolution.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said France’s proposal would invoke Chapter 7, a clause that allows member states to use all possible means, including military action, to enforce a U.N. resolution.

Mr. Fabius said the resolution would call for consequences if the regime of Mr. Assad fails to comply with the proposed program, adding that “all options remain on the table.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry rejected the French proposal because of the Chapter 7 reference, as well as the suggestion that the resolution would blame the Syrian government for deploying chemical weapons. [Continue reading…]

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