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September 13, 2013

Kerry rejects initial Syrian offer

GENEVA (AP) — Striking a tough tone, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry opened swiftly convened talks with Russia on Syria’s chemical weapons Thursday by bluntly rejecting a Syrian pledge to begin a “standard process” by turning over information rather than weapons — and nothing immediately.

That won’t do, Kerry declared at an opening news conference, a stone-faced Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at his side. “The words of the Syrian regime in our judgment are simply not enough.”

“This is not a game,” Kerry said of the latest developments in a series that has rapidly gone from deadly chemical attacks to threats of retaliatory U.S. air strikes to Syrian agreement with a Russian plan to turn over the weapons and, finally, to the crucial matter of working out the difficult details.

“We believe there is nothing standard about this process at this moment because of the way the regime has behaved,” Kerry declared. And he kept alive the threat of U.S. military action, saying the turnover of weapons must be complete, verifiable and timely — “and finally, there ought to consequences if it doesn’t take place.”

Adding to the drama, Russian President Vladimir Putin weighed in from afar, raising eyebrows with an opinion piece in The New York Times that chided Americans for seeing themselves as “exceptional.” That was an apparent reference to a comment President Barack Obama made in his Syria speech Tuesday night, explaining why he felt the U.S. needed to take action. Congress has shown little inclination to authorize military action, and a vote on that has been put off.

Assad: Syria to submit data on chemical weapons a month after signing convention

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian President Bashar Assad publicly agreed Thursday to a Russian plan to secure and destroy his chemical weapons, but said the proposal would work only if the U.S. halts threats of military action.

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