Russia works on 'concrete' plan for control of Syrian chemical arms

MOSCOW Tue Sep 10, 2013 10:59am BST

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia is working on an "effective, clear, concrete" plan for putting Syria's chemical weapons under international control and is discussing the details with Damascus, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday.

Lavrov told reporters the plan would be presented to other nations soon and that the proposal, which Moscow hopes will avert possible U.S. military strikes on Syria, was not entirely Russian and grew out of contacts with the United States.

After Russia suggested on Monday that its ally Damascus hand over its chemical weapons for destruction, Syria welcomed the proposal and U.S. President Barack Obama said he saw a possible breakthrough in the crisis but remained sceptical.

"We, the Russian side, are at the present time working on preparing an effective, clear, concrete plan, for which purpose contacts with the Syrian side are being conducted literally at this minute," Lavrov told a joint news conference after talks with Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdel Aziz.

"We hope to present this plan in the very near future, and will be prepared to finalise it and work it out with the involvement of the U.N. Secretary General, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and members of the Security Council," which includes the United States.

Lavrov announced Russia's proposal at a hastily arranged news conference on Monday, hours after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Syria could avoid a U.S. strike by surrendering all his chemical weapons within a week, but immediately made clear he was not making a serious offer.

On Tuesday, however, Lavrov said the proposal "is not an entirely Russian initiative. It stems from contacts we have had with our American colleagues, from yesterday's statement by John Kerry, who said strikes could be avoided if this problem is solved."

(Reporting by Gabriela Bazcynska, Writing by Steve Gutterman, Editing by Timothy Heritage)