VOA News — U.S. President Barack Obama has asked Congress to delay votes on a possibe military strike on Syria after the Syrians agreed to give up their chemical weapons.
The government in Damascus said it will disclose its chemical stockpile and sign an international treaty banning such weapons. Syria also says it is willing to agree to a Russian plan to put its chemical weapons under international control, where they would be destroyed.
Secretary of State John Kerry says the United States will take a hard look at the Russian plan, but he says it has to be verifiable and implemented quickly. Kerry said the United States is not going to fall for what he calls a stalling tactic by Syria or Russia, Syria’s biggest ally. Russia’s offer to manage Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal in lieu of a punitive military strike is “not a game,” he said. Kerry made the remarks during a Google Hangout hosted by the New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Lara Setrakian, founder of the digital news site Syria Deeply, on Tuesday.
“With good faith, it could be brought to fruition. But there are big obstacles,” Kerry said of the possible deal. “We will make it clear that there will be consequences if games are played.”
The United Nations Security Council canceled an emergency meeting on Syria that was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. But Obama still plans to address the American people Tuesday night on the Syrian crisis. The president was planning to make his case for a possible military strike on Syria for allegedly dropping chemical weapons on civilians last month.
Iran, China and the Arab League have all said they welcome the Russian plan for Syria’s chemical weapons. But Syria’s main opposition bloc, the Syrian National Coalition, dismissed the idea as meaningless. It says it would still give the Syrian army free rein to fight on with conventional weapons.
Also Tuesday, Human Rights Watch said Syrian forces were “almost certainly responsible” for the August 21 chemical attack near Damascus.
The group said in a new report that the type of rockets used, photos and videos from the attack sites, and interviews with victims and doctors all implicate government forces.
“This evidence strongly suggests that Syrian government troops launched rockets carrying chemical warheads into the Damascus suburbs that terrible morning,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch.
Syria has accused rebels of carrying out the attacks, an allegation Human Rights Watch says lacks credibility and does not match the evidence.