UK's Cameron: Syria, Russia must show chemical arms proposal is genuine

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 10, 2013 8:23 AM
UK's Cameron: Syria, Russia must show chemical arms proposal is genuine

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron wants Russia and Syria to demonstrate that a Moscow-backed proposal for President Bashar al-Assad to put his chemical weapons under international control is genuine, Cameron's spokesman said on Tuesday.

"The onus is very much now on the Russian government and the Assad regime to follow up in a way to show that the initiative is a serious and genuine offer," the spokesman said, adding many serious questions remained to be answered.

Cameron said on Monday that Syria should be encouraged to go along with the plan, but warned the world to make sure the idea was not a tactic to delay a U.S. response to a suspected chemical weapons attack on August 21.

On Tuesday, his spokesman said the world's response to that attack could not drag on indefinitely. "This cannot be in any way an endless process," he said, adding: "We must be very vigilant about the risk of distraction tactics."

Serious questions remained about how such a process might be organized, the spokesman said, noting that as recently as Monday - in a TV interview - Assad was not acknowledging that his government actually possessed a stock of chemical weapons.

Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama had discussed the issue of how Syria's chemical arms could be controlled, the spokesman added, saying he did not think a statement by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday about the need for Assad to hand over his chemicals weapons was "a gaffe".

(Reporting By Andrew Osborn; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Stephen Addison)