Russia pressures Syria to give up chemical weapons to avert strike

Russia’s foreign minister said Monday that Moscow will “immediately” pressure Syria to relinquish its chemical weapons stockpile in an attempt to avert a U.S. military strike.

Sergey Lavrov told reporters Russia would ask Syria to place its chemical weapons in certain areas that would receive international oversight, and then dismantle them, according to the Associated Press.

Lavrov spoke the same day Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday said Syria could avoid a strike it if turned over all of its chemical weapons.

Asked Monday if there was anything Assad could do to prevent a strike, Kerry said: “Sure. He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week. 

"Turn it over, all of it, without delay. And allow the full and total accounting for that, but he isn’t about to do it,” Kerry said at a London press conference. 

Syria's foreign minister Walid Al-Moualem said his country welcomed Russia's proposal for Damascus to put its chemical weapons under international control, according to multiple media reports.

It's unclear whether the move by Russia and Syria could serve as a way out for all sides in the fight over Syria. 

President Obama has asked Congress for authorization to strike Syria, and has argued a limited strike is necessary to send a message about chemical weapons. 

There is little public support for military intervention, however, and it appears as if Obama's request for authorization could fail — something that would represent a significant political defeat for the president. 

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The White House has argued it has significant evidence the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regime's is responsible for unleashing nerve gas that killed more than 1,400 people in the suburbs of Damascus in an Aug. 21 attack..

Russia and Syria also requested Monday that United Nations inspectors return to Syria to continue assessing the aftermath of the alleged attack and present their finding to the U.N. Security Council.

Russia has raised questions about the U.S. evidence, and as a standing member of the United Nations Security Council has made it clear it would veto a U.N. vote authorizing international action.

Congress is expected to vote within the next few weeks on a measure that would authorize a U.S. strike on Syria.