France seeks UN ultimatum on Syria chemical weapons

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PARIS – France said Tuesday it would submit a resolution to the UN Security Council calling on Syria to put its chemical weapons beyond use or face “extremely serious” military reprisals.

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The resolution, to be presented in New York later in the day, will also demand that the individuals responsible for an August 21 chemical attack on two Damascus suburbs be put on trial at the International Criminal Court, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told a press conference.

Fabius said the resolution would demand full disclosure by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime of the scale of its weapons program, and that the arsenal be placed immediately under international control and then dismantled.

The minister said the resolution would be presented under chapter seven of the UN charter, which provides a basis for military action.

“It will provide for extremely serious consequences in the event of Syria violating its obligations,” Fabius said.

The French UN move came a day after Russia presented a proposal for Syria to cede control of its chemical weapons in order to avoid punitive military strikes threatened by the United States and France.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday that his officials had begun talks with the Syrians on a “concrete plan” to put the chemical weapons beyond use.

“We (Russia) are currently working on preparing a workable, precise and concrete plan and for this there are literally right now, in these minutes, contacts with the Syrian side,” Lavrov told a press conference in Moscow.

“And we expect to present this plan soon and we will be ready to work on it with the UN secretary general, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, with the participation of members of the UN Security Council,” he added.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Tuesday that Russia’s initiative demonstrated that international pressure, backed by the threat of military action, had worked, but warned that Syria had to act swiftly to prove its good faith.

“It’s an opening. It must be seized upon and Bashar al-Assad’s regime must formally respond and firmly engage to it, and it must be implemented quickly,” Le Drian said.

“If there had not been pressure from France and the United States to… oppose the use of weapons of mass destruction, there would not have been this reaction.

“If there had not been such determination, Russia would not have budged,” Le Drian said. “We are absolutely not easing up on the pressure.”

Syrian opponents of the Assad regime denounced the Russian move as a “political maneuver” designed to avert strikes and create division within the international community — a view that was widely echoed by commentators across Europe.

Free Syrian Army chief of staff Selim Idriss said Assad and the Russians could not be trusted.

“We call for strikes and we warn the international community that this regime tells lies, and the liar (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is its teacher,” Idriss told Al-Jazeera television.

AFP

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