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Syrian Update: Russian Support for Assad Shaky?; Syria Releases Chemical Weapons Arsenal

By: ap
By: ap

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia's Interfax news agency is quoting a top Kremlin official as saying the government could drop its support for Bashar Assad if the Syrian president reneges on his commitments to give up chemical weapons.
Interfax on Saturday quoted Sergei Ivanov, President Vladimir Putin's chief of staff, as saying Russia's position "could change" if it was "certain that Assad is cheating" on giving up chemical weapons.
Ivanov emphasized that he was speaking "theoretically and hypothetically." While speaking at a conference on Thursday, Putin said he was confident that Assad's government would be quick to comply.
Russia has been the biggest international backer of the Assad regime and a long-time ally of Syria, continuing a history of cooperation and exchange from Soviet times.

BEIRUT (AP) -- A Syrian activist group says government troops backed by allied militiamen have stormed a predominantly Sunni village in the center of the country, killing at least 15 people.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the attack on the village of Sheik Hadid occurred late Friday.
The group said the dead included two women and a child. It says the rest were men but does not know if they included rebel fighters.
The assault came shortly after rebels captured Jalma, another village close to Sheik Hadid in Hama province, killing five soldiers.
The Observatory says fighting raged Saturday in Sheik Hadid and nearby areas.
Syria's 2 1/2-year conflict has left more than 100,000 people dead.

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says its technical experts are reviewing a further disclosure from Syria about its chemical weapons program.
A day earlier, the body that polices the global treaty outlawing chemical weapons said it had received a preliminary submission from Syria.
No details have been released of what is in the Syrian declarations and OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan refused Saturday to give any more details about the latest submission.
Under a United States-Russia agreement aimed at swiftly ridding Syria of its chemical arsenal, Damascus had until Saturday to submit a full list to the organization of its chemical weapons and production facilities so they can be secured and destroyed.

(earlier story follows)
Syria sends watchdog chemical weapons inventory
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- Syria has sent the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons an "initial declaration" outlining its weapons program, the organization said Friday, in keeping with the agreement Russia and the U.S. brokered to have Syria give up its chemical weapons arsenal.
Michael Luhan, the organization's spokesman, told The Associated Press the declaration is "being reviewed by our verification division," but details of it will not be released.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the United States and other nations that have joined the chemical weapons organization "will be making a careful and thorough review of the initial document."
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, based in The Hague, polices a global treaty known as the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, which bars the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical arms. The organization relies on a global network of more than a dozen top laboratories to analyze field samples.
U.S. officials said last week that the United States and Russia agreed that Syria had roughly 1,000 metric tons of chemical weapons agents and precursors, including blister agents, such as sulfur and mustard gas and nerve agents like sarin.
In the aftermath of the U.N. report that concluded sarin had been used in an attack in Damascus last month, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is looking at ways to fast-track moves to secure and destroy Syria's arsenal of poison gas and nerve agents as well as its production facilities.
However, diplomatic efforts to speed up the process are moving slowly. A meeting initially scheduled for Sunday at which the organization's 41-nation executive council was to have discussed a U.S.-Russian plan to swiftly rid Syria of chemical weapons was postponed Friday, and no new date was immediately set. No reason was given for the postponement.
Harf said she did not know why the meeting was postponed, but said Syria's initial declaration was a step Washington was seeking "and we'll go from there."
Under a U.S.-Russia agreement brokered last weekend in Geneva, inspectors are to be on the ground in Syria by November. During that month, they are to complete their initial assessment and all mixing and filling equipment for chemical weapons is to be destroyed.
All components of the chemical weapons program are to be removed from the country or destroyed by mid-2014.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons plan of action will be backed up by a U.N. Security Council resolution, and negotiations remain underway on the text of such a resolution.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he talked to his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, about Syria's chemical weapons early Friday.
"I had a fairly long conversation with Foreign Minister Lavrov," Kerry said in Washington. "We talked about the cooperation which we both agreed to continue to provide, moving not only toward the adoption of the OPCW rules and regulations, but also a resolution that is firm and strong within the United Nations. We will continue to work on that."
In an interview with Fox News Channel aired Wednesday, Syrian President Bashar Assad blamed terrorists for the Aug. 21 chemical attack, which the U.S. says killed more than 1,400 people, including hundreds of children. He said evidence that terrorist groups have used sarin gas has been turned over to Russia and that Russia, through one of its satellites, has evidence that the rockets in the attack were launched from another area.
While the U.N. report did not lay blame, many experts interpreting the report said all indications were that the attack was conducted by Assad forces.


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