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Syria 'gave assurances' it will meet chem handover deadline

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The Syrian government gave assurances Wednesday that it will comply with a one-week deadline to hand over information about the size and location of its chemical weapons arsenal, a Russian diplomat said after talks with the Damascus regime.

The Saturday deadline is the first big test of a US-Russian plan to eradicate Syria's chemical weapons in a bid to ward off US-led military action against President Bashar al-Assad's regime over a gas attack on a Damascus suburb last month.

"We have received assurances here that this will be done on time," Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying by Russian television after talks in Damascus, which included a meeting with Assad.

Despite having jointly agreed a deal under which Syria will turn over its chemical weapons stockpile, Moscow and Washington remain at loggerheads over who launched the August 21 attack.

Ryabkov accused UN inspectors studying the gas attack of ignoring "very factual" evidence provided by the Damascus regime.

Evidence related to the deadly incident "was given to Mr. (Ake) Sellstrom who headed the group of UN inspectors," he said according to remarks aired on Russian state television.

"We are upset that it did not receive adequate attention in the report."

A UN report released on Monday concluded that sarin gas was used in the attack in which hundreds died, and the US and its allies have claimed that the findings by Swedish expert Sellstrom and his team showed that the attack was perpetrated by the Syrian government.

Moscow and Damascus have strongly denied the allegation, blaming rebels for the attack.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday said evidence implicating Syrian rebels in the attack would be given to the United Nations Security Council.

"There is a lot of (data) regarding the incidents that occurred in August in Ghouta near Damascus. We will be reviewing all of it in the Security Council," Russian news agencies quoted Lavrov as saying.

Ryabkov is on a visit to Damascus for two days of talks with the Syrian regime to go over the high-stakes US-Russian agreement reached in Geneva at the weekend.

Ryabkov said he had assured the Syrian side that there was "no basis" for a UN Security Council resolution on the chemical weapons agreement to invoke Chapter VII of the UN Charter that allows the use of force.

The United States, meanwhile, has said it will maintain the threat of force if Damascus fails to abide by the accord.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130918/syria-gave-assurances-it-will-meet-chem-handover-deadline