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The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution late Friday requiring Syria to give up its chemical weapons stockpiles, in a landmark decision to back its first binding resolution since the conflict began two and a half years ago.
"Tonight, with a strong, enforceable, precedent-setting resolution requiring Syria to give up its chemical weapons, the United Nations Security Council has demonstrated that diplomacy can be so powerful it can peacefully diffuse the worst weapons of war," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told the 15-member body.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the resolution recognized that the use of chemical weapons is a threat to international peace and security. He also said it upholds the principal of accountability and endorses a plan for a political transition, previously agreed to at an international conference in Geneva last year.
The vote was cast just weeks after U.S. President Barack Obama was on the brink of ordering military strikes against Syria in response to an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack the United States said led to more than 1,400 deaths.
The United States, Britain, France and others say the chemical attack was carried out by President Bashar al-Assad's regime, while Syria and its major ally Russia blame the opposition for launching it.
The United States changed course to work intensively with the five veto-wielding Security Council members. China and Russia three times vetoed resolutions that would have put pressure on the Syrian government to rein in the violence.
Russia has opposed putting the resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which could authorize the imposition of sanctions or military action.
While the United States, France and Britain had been pushing for such action, in the end a compromise was reached so that there is a reference to Chapter 7 should the Syrian regime not follow through on its obligations, but it would require another resolution.
Specifically, the text states that "in the event of non-compliance, including unauthorized transfer of chemical weapons, or any use of chemical weapons by anyone" in Syria, the council could impose measures under Chapter 7.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that the resolution allowed for punitive action, should chemical weapons be used by any side and that the council "will stand ready to take action under Chapter 7 of the (U.N.) charter, quite clearly."
Bashar Ja'afari, Syria's ambassador to the United Nations, said countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, the United States and France should equally abide by the resolution and be held accountable, as his government accuses them of backing rebels who it claims have used chemical weapons.
So far more than 110,000 people have been killed and more than seven million -- a third of the population -- has been displaced in the war-torn Middle Eastern country.
"Today's historic resolution is the first hopeful news on Syria in a long time," U.N. Secretary Ban Ki Moon told Security Council members. "For many months, I have said that the confirmed use of chemical weapons in Syria would require a firm, united response. Tonight, the international community has delivered."
Ban also announced that the next international conference to help pave the path for a political transition in Syria will likely be held in mid-November in Geneva.
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