Kerry says there’s ‘no time to argue’ about Syria
Putin ‘not certain’ Assad will follow through with plan to destroy chemical weapons
US secretary of state John Kerry said today the US believes a report by UN inspectors proves Dr Assad conducted the attack. Photograph: Larry Downing/Reuters
Russia’s president Vladimir Putin said today he has reason to hope Dr Assad will destroy all chemical weapons. Photograph: Michael Klimentyev/Reuters
Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad who said in a television interview last night that it would require up to $1 billion to remove the country’s chemical weapons. Photograph: Reuters
US secretary of state John Kerry says the UN general assembly should move swiftly to approve a US-Russia deal to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons, saying there is no time to argue with those who remain unconvinced that Syrian president Bashar Assad’s government carried out a chemical attack last month.
Speaking today at the State Department, Mr Kerry did not mention Russian president Vladimir Putin, but his remarks were a clear attempt to rebut Mr Putin’s statement that Russia has strong ground to believe that Syrian rebels — not Dr Assad — were responsible for the attack.
Mr Kerry says the US believes a report by UN inspectors proves Dr Assad conducted the attack.
Watch Bashar Al Assad interview with Fox News
Mr Putin said earlier today he could not be 100 per cent certain a plan for the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons would be carried out successfully but he saw reason to hope it would.
“Will we be able to accomplish it all? I cannot be 100 per cent sure about it,” Mr Putin told a gathering of journalists and Russia experts. “But everything we have seen so far in recent days gives us confidence that this will happen ... I hope so.”
Mr Putin, whose country has been the Syrian government‘s main ally in the more than two-year-old civil war, said he had strong grounds to believe that an August 21st chemical attack in Syria was staged by opponents of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
“We always talk about the responsibility of the Assad government, if he was the one used it (a chemical weapon). What if the opposition used it?,” Mr Putin said. “We have every reason to believe it was a cunning provocation.”
Russia and the United States brokered a deal last week to put Dr Assad’s chemical arms stockpiles under international control to avoid possible US military strikes that Washington said were intended to punish him for the poison gas attack.
But Mr Putin reiterated Moscow view that the methods used to make the chemical weapon used in the attack suggested it was home-made and not a type of armament used by the Syrian army.
Western governments say a UN report confirmed Dr Assad’s forces were behind the attack in rebel-held areas.
Dr Assad said last night it would cost about $1 billion to get rid of Syria’s chemical weapons under a US-Russian deal reached last week.
In an interview on the Fox News television channel, Dr Assad said his government would dispose of its chemical weapons arsenal and it would take about a year.
“I think it is a very complicated operation technically and it needs a lot, a lot of money. Some estimated about a billion for the Syrian stockpile,” he said.
Asked whether he would be willing to hand over chemical weapons to the US government, Dr Assad said: “As I said, it needs a lot of money. It needs about $1 billion. It is very detrimental to the environment.
“If the American administration is ready to pay this money and take the responsibility of bringing toxic materials to the US, why don’t they do it?”
Dr Assad denied that his forces were responsible for a chemical weapons attack in Ghouta, outside Damascus, on August 21st that brought the US close to attacking Syria in response.
He said the Syrian army was advancing in the area at the time and had no need to fire rockets filled with the nerve agent sarin, as the US says it did.
“The whole story doesn’t even hold together. It’s not realistic. So, no, we didn’t. In one word, we didn’t use any chemical weapons in Ghouta,” he said, speaking English.
UN chemical investigators confirmed on Monday the use of sarin in the attack in a long-awaited report that the United States, Britain and France said proved government forces were responsible
Dr Assad said it was too early to make a definitive comment on the UN report.
“We have to look at it. We have to discuss it before saying if we agree or disagree. It was only yesterday evening,” he said.
Asked whether he had a message for president Barack Obama, Dr Assad said: “Listen to your people. Follow the common sense of your people. That’s enough,” in an apparent reference to opinion polls that show Americans oppose any US strike on Syria.
Former US Representative Dennis Kucinich, a liberal Democrat and eight-term congressman from Ohio who is now a commentator for Fox News, took part in the interview on Tuesday in Damascus along with Fox senior correspondent Greg Palkot.
Mr Kucinich has visited Assad twice before, most recently in June 2011, after the uprising against the Syrian president began. Syrian media quoted Kucinich as saying on that trip that Assad was “highly loved” by Syrians. The congressman said he had been misquoted.