By Bassem Mroue
The Associated Press
BEIRUT — Syrian President Bashar Assad publicly agreed Thursday to a Russian plan to secure and destroy his chemical weapons, but said the proposal would work only if the U.S. halts threats of military action.
Assad also said his government will start submitting data on its chemical weapons stockpile a month after signing the convention banning such weapons.
Syria’s U.N. ambassador Bashar Ja’afari told reporters Thursday that he presented Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with “the instrument of accession” to the Chemical Weapons Convention making his country a full member of the treaty banning the use of chemical weapons.
U.N. associate spokesman Farhan Haq said that while secretary-general welcomes the development, Syria will only become a member 30 days after its instrument of accession is deposited and that the documentation is still being studied.
American officials, meeting with their Russian counterparts in Geneva, insisted on a speedier Syrian accounting of their stockpiles.
Assad’s remarks to Russia’s state Rossiya 24 news channel were his first since the Russian plan was announced Monday as a way to avert a potential U.S. military strike in response to the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds near Damascus.
He said that Syria is relinquishing control over its chemical weapons because of Russia.
“We agreed to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international supervision in response to Russia’s request and not because of American threats,” Assad said.
“In my view, the agreement will begin to take effect a month after its signing, and Syria will begin turning over to international organizations data about its chemical weapons,” Assad said.