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Syria cooperation shows no need for US force, says Putin

Russia President Vladimir Putin has urged the United States to renounce the option of using force in Syria. It came after Syria announced its willingness to turn over and halt the production of all chemical weapons.

Russia are preparing a proposal for the handover and dismantlement of Syria's chemical weapons, which it will then present to the United Nations Security Council. The resolution is not expected to take the hard line of one proposed by France, and has been accepted by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem.

Moallem also said his nation would join the Chemical Weapons Convention; currently Syria is one of only seven countries not to have ratified the agreement.

"We are ready to state where the chemical weapons are, to halt production of chemical weapons and show these installations to representatives of Russia, other countries and the UN," Moallem said in a statement sent to Russian news agency Interfax.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov first broached the initial handover in talks with Moallem on Monday.

And the potential for a diplomatic solution has prompted Putin to call for the United States to scrap the debate in Congress on military intervention in Syria.

"It [the proposal] all makes sense and can work if the US side and all those who support it renounce the use of force," he told Russia Today television. "It is difficult to constrain Syria or another country to disarm unilaterally while military action against that country is being prepared. Russia's position on this question is well known: we are against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, chemical or nuclear."

Handover widely supported

The move for a handover was backed by China, who - like Russia - had supported a non-military response to August 21's alleged chemical weapons attacks in the Syrian capital of that the US claims killed more than 1,400 people.

It also gained tentative support from the US, France and the United Kingdom, who firmly believe the attacks were the responsibility of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Despite Putin's call, United States President Barack Obama is pushing on for congressional approval for a military operation in Syria. But Obama, his French counterpart Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed after a telephone conference on Tuesday to keep "all options open."

"The heads of state highlighted their preference for a diplomatic solution but they also underlined the importance of keeping all options open," Hollande's office said in a statement, after the two leaders spoke by telephone.

A White House official said Russia's proposal would be "seriously" explored by the three countries before a decision was made.

Kerry urges Syria to pursue peace

Earlier on Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry said the US would not be willing to wait long for details of Russia's handover proposal.

Following Moallem's statement on the chemical weapons amnesty, however, Kerry urged Syria's government to "genuinely reach out" to "try and make peace."

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said a five-point proposal on a chemical weapons handover will be submitted later on Tuesday at the UN Security Council. The resolution would lay the blame for the August 21 attacks at the feet of Assad's regime and also demand international weapons inspectors oversee the dismantling process.

It was deemed "unacceptable" by Lavrov, according to a statement by the Russian foreign ministry. Russia's proposal has the support of Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi, who told state news agency SANA his government was ready to cooperate "with any international political initiative aimed at defusing war."

"The Syrian government's support for the Russian initiative is out of concern for citizens' lives and for Syria's security, and is aimed at preventing a war that may have consequences far beyond the region,” he said.

ph/msh (AFP, dpa, AP)