WASHINGTON: ‘ Hillary Clinton blames Republicans for Inequality in US ‘

#AceNewsReport – WASHINGTON:June.13: Clinton announced her candidacy by blaming Republicans for the fact that inequality in the US has been increasing and Wall Street managers and CEOs have expanded their share of the economy while overlooking how that trend started during her husband’s administration.

Hillary Clinton officially announced her candidacy today saying that she intends to reshape the US economy so it works for more Americans rather than just those on the wealthier end of the spectrum. However, she overlooked her husband’s role in bank deregulation that led to an increase in inequality and the crash of 2008.

“These Republicans trip over themselves promising lower taxes for the wealthy and fewer rules for the biggest corporations without regard for how that will make income inequality even worse,” Clinton said in her speech.

The Republican candidates in the 2016 cycle are continuing to push for the same damaging policies, Clinton argues.

“They pledge to wipe out tough rules on Wall Street, rather than rein in the banks that are still too risky, courting future failures. In a case that can only be considered mass amnesia.”

The choice of Roosevelt Island, named after and dedicated to Franklin Delano Roosevelt stands as an ironic symbol given that Hillary Clinton’s husband, President Bill Clinton, undid key legislation that Roosevelt enacted to end The Great Depression and rein in runaway financial institutions.

President Clinton’s tenure was characterized by financial deregulation which set the stage for the expanded deregulation during the administration of George W. Bush, during the end of which the economy crashed. Clinton signed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, a cornerstone of Depression-era regulation Roosevelt had put in place. Bill Clinton also signed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, exempting credit-default swaps from regulation.

Bill Clinton would likely have a significant advisory role should the couple return to the White House. 


Ace Worldwide News

#barack-obama, #george-h-w-bush, #george-w-bush, #goldman-sachs, #hillary-clinton, #jon-corzine, #republican-national-committee, #robert-rubin, #united-states, #wall-street

Rumsfeld: ‘Unrealistic’ for Bush to pursue democracy in Iraq

#AceNewsReport – USA:June.09: Donald Rumsfeld, one of the leading architects of the Iraq war, said in a recent interview that then-President George W. Bush was “unrealistic” to pursue democracy in the country.

Rumsfeld, who served as Bush’s defense secretary from 2001 to 2006, made the comments in an interview with the Times of London.

“I’m not one who thinks that our particular template of democracy is appropriate for other countries at every moment of their histories,” Rumsfeld said.

“The idea that we could fashion a democracy in Iraq seemed to me unrealistic. I was concerned about it when I first heard those words.”

The comments are a departure from Rumsfeld’s robust public defense of the war during the Bush administration, and mark a rare break between him and the former president on foreign policy.

Since the 2003 invasion and the toppling of dictator Saddam Hussein, Iraq has held multiple elections. But most recently, majority Shiites have been accused of sidelining minority Sunnis, feeding tensions that were exploited by the Islamic State, a Sunni terror group.

Even as he voiced second thoughts about the U.S. goals in the Iraq war, Rumsfeld scolded western governments for their current failure to deal with Muslim extremists.

“The movement for a caliphate, the movement against nation states is central and fundamental. And no one’s talking about it,” he said.

Rumsfeld: ‘Unrealistic’ for Bush to pursue democracy in Iraq.



Ace Worldwide News Group

#2003-invasion-of-iraq, #barack-obama, #democracy-in-iraq, #donald-rumsfeld, #george-w-bush, #iraq-war, #saddam-hussein, #the-times, #united-nations, #united-states-secretary-of-defense


#AceNewsServices – October 18 – The Daily Beast’s Eli Lake reports that the individual responsible for covering up the discovery of chemical weapons in Iraq in 2004 was Karl Rove.

Report: It was Karl Rove behind cover-up of aging chemical weapons found in Iraq

Report: It was Karl Rove behind cover-up of aging chemical weapons found in Iraq

Lake spoke to former Republican Senator Rick Santorum, who told him that his office started receiving photographs of discarded shells of sarin and mustard gas from United States military personnel in 2003 and 2004.

He approached the George W. Bush White House about using them in his reelection campaign, but was rebuffed because of what the New York Times alleges was an attempt to cover-up the chemical wounds being suffered by American troops.

“We don’t want to look back,” Santorum recalls Rove saying, careful to note that he is paraphrasing a conversation he had eight years previous. “I will say that the gist of the comments from the president’s senior people was ‘We don’t want to look back, we want to look forward.’”

Dave Wurmser, at the time a senior advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney, corroborated Santorum’s account, saying that “Karl Rove and his team blocked public disclosure of these [findings] and said ‘Let these sleeping dogs lie; we have lost that fight so better not to remind anyone of it.’”

Still, Santorum believes that the administration missed an opportunity. Although “there [were] no active chemical-weapons operation in Iraq — that doesn’t mean there were no chemical weapons.

That was the point we were making. It’s clear from The New York Times’ article that the military as well as the administration didn’t want to have that conversation because they missed it.”



#george-w-bush, #karl-rove, #rick-santorum, #white-house

‘ NSA and FBI Covertly Monitored Emails of Prominent Muslim-Americans ‘

#AceWorldNewsUNITED STATES – July 18  – The National Security Agency and FBI have covertly monitored the emails of prominent Muslim-Americans—including a political candidate and several civil rights activists, academics, and lawyers—under secretive procedures intended to target terrorists and foreign spies.


According to documents provided by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, the list of Americans monitored by their own government includes:

Faisal Gill, a longtime Republican Party operative and one-time candidate for public office who held a top-secret security clearance and served in the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush;

• Asim Ghafoor, a prominent attorney who has represented clients in terrorism-related cases;

• Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American professor of international relations at Rutgers University;

Agha Saeed, a former political science professor at California State University who champions Muslim civil liberties and Palestinian rights;

Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the country.

The individuals appear on an NSA spreadsheet in the Snowden archives called “FISA recap”—short for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Under that law, the Justice Department must convince a judge with the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that there is probable cause to believe that American targets are not only agents of an international terrorist organization or other foreign power, but also “are or may be” engaged in or abetting espionage, sabotage, or terrorism. The authorizations must be renewed by the court, usually every 90 days for U.S. citizens.


The spreadsheet shows 7,485 email addresses listed as monitored between 2002 and 2008. Many of the email addresses on the list appear to belong to foreigners whom the government believes are linked to Al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah. Among the Americans on the list are individuals long accused of terrorist activity, including Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, who were killed in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen.

But a three-month investigation by The Intercept—including interviews with more than a dozen current and former federal law enforcement officials involved in the FISA process—reveals that in practice, the system for authorizing NSA surveillance affords the government wide latitude in spying on U.S. citizens.

The five Americans whose email accounts were monitored by the NSA and FBI have all led highly public, outwardly exemplary lives. All five vehemently deny any involvement in terrorism or espionage, and none advocates violent jihad or is known to have been implicated in any crime, despite years of intense scrutiny by the government and the press. Some have even climbed the ranks of the U.S. national security and foreign policy establishments.

“I just don’t know why,” says Gill, whose AOL and Yahoo! email accounts were monitored while he was a Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates. “I’ve done everything in my life to be patriotic. I served in the Navy, served in the government, was active in my community—I’ve done everything that a good citizen, in my opinion, should do.”


(An Intercept video interview with Gill and Ghafoor and Awad on this link) 

They were directed by Nadia Hallgren and Intercept co-founder Laura Poitras.) 



#edward-snowden, #agha-saeed, #council-on-american-islamic-relations, #faisal-gill, #fbi, #george-w-bush, #national-security-agency, #nihad-awad, #nsa

US President `George W Bush ' Dabbles in a New kind of Oil this Time as a Portrait Artist'

#AceNewsServices – UNITED STATES – April 05 – (VOA) – Former U.S. President George W. Bush has a new title to add to his resume: painter.

The subjects of his paintings? World leaders – a theme he knows well.

Bush’s portraits go on display in his presidential library and museum in Dallas, Texas Saturday.

The exhibit, titled “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy,” will feature his paintings of world figures he worked with during his presidency from 2001 to 2009, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama (BBC)

Bush began his painting hobby two years ago. In an interview on NBC with his daughter Jenna Bush Hager, who works for the network,

Bush said although he does not think he is a great artist, “a whole new world has opened up” for him.


#dalai-lama, #dallas, #george-w-bush, #russian-president-vladimir-putin, #texas, #tony-blair, #united-states

` White House has withheld over 9,000 top-secret documents from `Senate Investigation ‘ of the CIA Detention and Torture Program ‘

#AceWorldNews For the last five years, the White House has withheld over 9,000 top-secret documents from a Senate investigation of the CIA’s former detention and torture program. The report comes one day after the CIA was accused of interfering in the probe.

Though the White House has publicly supported the investigation into Bush-era torture, the Obama administration has routinely rejected requests by the Select Senate Committee on Intelligence to see the records, McClatchy news service reported Wednesday.

It is not clear how substantial the documents are for the investigation, yet the White House has shielded them without wielding the claim of executive privilege that has been used often by the Obama and George W. Bush administrations to cover CIA and other government secrets following the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The White House told McClatchy a “small percentage” of the 6.2 million pages of documents given to the Committee were “set aside because they raise executive branch confidentiality interests.” The White House added that it had worked with the Committee “to ensure access to the information necessary to review the CIA’s former program.”

Neither the CIA nor the Committee would offer comment to McClatchy.

McClatchy RT and Reuters

#ANS2014 Related News at http://wp.me/p165ui-4de
Extract – “The CIA just went and searched the committee’s computers.” Feinstein said.
Feinstein added that she was not taking the situation lightly, and that the CIA may have acted in violation of the Fourth Amendment, in addition to myriad federal laws.

#cia, #rt, #george-w-bush, #mcclatchy, #obama, #reuters, #white-house

John Paul II’s `Personal Notes to be Published’ Despite`Pope’s Last Will and Testament’ to Burn Them”

#AceNewsServices says John Paul II’s personal notes to be published Wednesday in defiance of the pope’s will to burn them.

English: Pope John Paul II speaks after he was...

English: Pope John Paul II speaks after he was honored with the Medal of Freedom in June 2004, presented during his audience with President George W. Bush and Laura Bush. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

John Paul II’s personal notes, entrusted to his closest confidant and today’s archbishop of Krakow Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, is due be published Wednesday despite the pope’s last will and testament, which required the cardinal to burn them.

The book, entitled “I am Very Much in God’s Hands”, comes out in Poland, the pope’s native land.

Criticism so far has outpaced praise.

“I don’t think it is right for a church member to go against the will and authority of the pope, whatever the reason,” Ewelina Gniewnik said as she was leaving Saviour’s Church in down-town Warsaw. “I’m not sure that Cardinal Dziwisz knows what he is doing.”

Cardinal Dziwisz recently said that he “didn’t have the courage” to destroy John Paul II’s notes as they contain his thoughts and religious meditations written from July 1962, when he was a young bishop on the rise, to March 2003, when he had been pope for more than 24 years and Parkinson’s disease was eroding his health.

English: The signature of Pope John Paul II.

English: The signature of Pope John Paul II. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“In writing his will, the Holy Father knew he was entrusting these notebooks to someone who would treat them responsibly,” Cardinal Dziwisz said at a news conference in Krakow on January 22. “I had no doubt these were such important items, testifying to the spirituality of a great pope, that it would be a crime to destroy them.” He invoked the despair of historians after the burning of Pope Pius XII’s letters.

As analysts believe, the book will be more bought than read as it includes abstruse reflections on biblical citations that scholars will study closely but that ordinary readers may find less accessible.

But not every cardinal blames Dziwisz for his decision.

“I admit that without having read the book, I was sadly surprised with the decision,” the Rev. Adam Boniecki, an influential Catholic intellectual, wrote on January 22 in Tygodnik Powszechny, a leading Catholic weekly in Poland. “After reading the notebooks, however, I am grateful that in this matter, he didn’t come as scrupulous bureaucrat.”

Here are translated excerpts from “I am Very Much in God’s Hands” .


Chastity. Body from God – and redeemed: “you do not belong to yourselves”

Christ is chastity alone and virginity alone!


Priesthood is not identified with celibacy, but celibacy supports priesthood and gives it a particular effectiveness.


On October 13, 1978 my dear friend bp (bishop) Andrzej Deskur suffered an unexpected stroke that brought partial paralysis on him. Despite treatment at the Gemelli Polyclinic, and then in Switzerland, the paralysis has not receded.

On October 14 I visited Andrzej in hospital, going to conclave, who was to make the choice of a successor after the death of John Paul I.

It is hard for me not to link the fact that on October 16 I was that chosen successor, with the event that preceded that choice by 3 days. The sacrifice of my Brother in bishopry, Andrzej, seems to me to be preparation for this fact. Everything has been inscribed, through his suffering, into the mystery of the Cross and Redemption that was accomplished by Christ.


XVI Conference. Jesus Christ and history.

a) History as the presence of evil

b) History as the presence of good

c) History as a “coupling” of good and evil

To know how to reconcile? To know how to extract good from evil!

Courtesy of: Voice of Russia, the New York Times, AP


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#GCHQ `Taught’ #NSA : How to `Monitor’ our `Social Media Sites’ in Real-Time”

#AceSecurityNews says `GCHQ‘ taught `NSA’how to monitor Facebook, Twitter in real-time #Snowden leak

British intelligence officials can infiltrate the very cables that transfer information across the internet,British intelligence officials can infiltrate the very cables that transfer information across the internet, as well as monitor users in real-time on sites like Facebook without the company’s consent, according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

The internal documents reveal that British analysts gave instruction to members of the National Security Agency in 2012, showing them how to spy on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in real-time and collect the computer addresses of billions of the sites’ up-loaders.

The leaked documents are from a #GCHQ publication titled ‘Psychology: A New Kind of SIGDEV’ (Signals Development). Published by NBC News on Monday, the papers detail a program dubbed ‘Squeaky Dolphin,’ which was developed for analysts working in “broad real-time monitoring of online activity.”

Sources told NBC that the British have proven their ability to both directly monitor the world’s web traffic cable and use a third-party to view the data stream and extract information from it.

Representatives from the companies in question said they have not provided any data to the government of the United Kingdom under this program, either voluntarily or involuntarily. One person who wished to remain anonymous said that Google, the company that owns YouTube, was “shocked” to discover the UK may have been “grabbing” data for years.

Previously published disclosures have made it clear that the US and UK are sharing intelligence tactics. The Washington Post reported in October 2013 that the #NSA and #GCHQ collaborated on a program known as MUSCULAR, which the agencies used to record “entire data flows” from Yahoo and Google.

Security officials have consistently maintained that the programs are authorized under the laws of their respective nation and that the surveillance is designed only as a tool for preventing terrorism. Still, the lack of transparency has left civil liberties advocates searching for more answers.

Governments have no business knowing which YouTube videos everyone in the world is watching,Chris Soghoian, chief technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, told NBC. “It’s one thing to spy on a particular person who has done something to warrant a government investigation but governments have no business monitoring the Facebook likes or YouTube views of hundreds of millions of people.”

When members of GCHQ delivered the presentation to NSA officials, they showed the Americans how to carry out the surveillance by extracting information from YouTube, Facebook, and Google’s Blogger service on February 13, 2012 – one day before anti-government protests were to begin in Bahrain.

According to the documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, the presenters were careful to mention that the intelligence gathering was not designed to monitor specific targets. “Not interested in individuals just broad trends!” one note reads.

Jason Healey, a former White House official under President George W. Bush, told NBC such activity not only sends a shiver through the public but has also become an impediment for Silicon Valley executives and the thriving social media industry.

We want our security services to be out there and keeping us safe,” he said, “but we can also look for balance, we can look for limits, especially if we’re putting at risk this most transformative technology since Gutenberg.”


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#AceNewsDesk : ” World News – Headlines – 24 January 2014″

Ace News Group



Romanian hacker ‘Guccifer’ appeals for release

“Guccifer” – the Romanian hacker renowned for accessing the private emails of former US president George W. Bush and various key entertainment figures appealed his arrest on Friday, according to Reuters. Marcel Lazar Lehel, whose name roughly translates as “Small Fume” was detained in Bucharest on Wednesday after hacking the email accounts last February. Leading Romanian lawyer, Catalin Dancu, stated there was “close to no chance” of the request for release being granted.

Three killed in US Yemen drone strike

Three suspected militants have been killed in a drone strike in Yemen, east of the capital Sanaa. Local officials and tribal sources told Reuters that it was a US drone which killed the trio. A succession of explosions was heard by witnesses, after which a car with the charred remains of three bodies was found. Fifteen people were killed and a further five injured in December when a US drone struck a wedding party.

Argentina Govt lifts restrictions on buying foreign currency

Argentinian authorities on Friday lifted restrictions in place since 2011 that limited the purchase of foreign currency, AFP reported. The announcement came a day after the peso suffered its worst single-day dive since the 2002 financial crisis. Jorge Capitanich, President Cristina Kirchner’s cabinet chief, said the government has decided “to authorize the purchase of dollars for holding or savings.” At a rate of 8.01 pesos to the dollar, the peso “has reached a level acceptable to the objectives of economic policy convergence,” he said. The peso plunged by more than 11 percent against the dollar on Thursday.

UN nuclear inspectors’ visit to Gchine uranium mine in Iran imminent

UN nuclear watchdog inspectors will visit Iran’s Gchine uranium mine in the coming days, under a cooperation agreement signed late last year. The move was announced by Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Reuters reported. Amano did not give further details about the planned visit.

Three killed in US Yemen drone strike

Three suspected militants have been killed in a drone strike in Yemen, east of the capital Sanaa. Local officials and tribal sources told Reuters that it was a US drone which killed the trio. A succession of explosions was heard by witnesses, after which a car with the charred remains of three bodies was found. Fifteen people were killed and a further five injured in December when a US drone struck a wedding party.

3,000 Serbians protest anti-crisis laws

Some 3,000 workers have rallied against laws that Serbian government officials say are a key to economic reform, but which could lead to further job losses, AP said. Demonstrators marched in downtown Belgrade on Friday, demanding that new labor, bankruptcy and privatization laws be withdrawn. They also want the economy minister, Sasa Radulovic, to resign. Radulovic has insisted that the laws are necessary to restart Serbia’s economy. The reform bills are yet to be approved in Parliament.

2,000 Morsi supporters clash with security forces in Cairo

Fierce clashes broke out between about 2,000 supporters of deposed Islamist President Mohamed Morsi and Egyptian security forces in Cairo on Friday, Reuters reported. They happened hours after a suicide bomber attacked a major police compound in the capital. The fighting took place on the road that leads to the Pyramids of Giza. Some Islamists burned tires and hurled petrol bombs at security forces, who responded by firing tear gas.

Child dead in apartment explosion in Nice, France

An explosion in an apartment building on Friday morning in Nice, in the south of France, has killed a four-year child and injured four others – two of them were hospitalized. The multi-story building was seriously damaged, local media say. The blast ripped through two apartments, and parts of the roof and wall crumbled. The cause of the explosion was not immediately clear.

Syria delegation to leave Geneva if no ‘serious sessions’ before Saturday

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said on Friday that if no serious work sessions were held by Saturday, the government delegation would leave, Reuters reported. “If no serious work sessions are held by [Saturday], the official Syrian delegation will leave Geneva due to the other side’s lack of seriousness or preparedness,”state television quoted Muallem as telling UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi. Brahimi and a Syrian government delegation reportedly met on Friday at the UN in Geneva. The mediator is due to meet the Syrian opposition delegation later on Friday.

More than 65,000 flee Iraqi fighting in week – UN

More than 65,000 people have fled fighting in the Iraqi cities of Fallujah and Ramadi during the past week, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said on Friday. More than 140,000 have been made homeless since fighting broke out at the end of last year, Reuters quoted UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards as saying.

UK can renegotiate ties with the EU to avoid exit – Cameron

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Friday he was confident he could renegotiate his country’s relations with the EU to allow it to remain in the bloc. “I’m confident that we’ll have a successful renegotiation and a successful referendum,” Reuters quoted him as saying at the World Economic Forum in Davos. He referred to his plan to reshape his country’s EU ties before offering Britons an in/out referendum if he is re-elected next year.

No talks between Syrian govt, opposition due to transitional body demands

Face-to-face talks between the Syrian government and the opposition will not take place on Friday, the UN said. It also confirmed that the Syrian mediator, Lakhdar Brahimi, will meet Syrian government and opposition delegations separately on Friday, Reuters reported. The opposition delegates earlier said they would not meet with the delegation led by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem until it endorses the Geneva communique of June 30, 2012, calling for a transitional governing body to be established. Syria’s Information Minister, Omaran Zoabi, said Damascus will not accept opposition demands to form a transitional body. The Syrian delegation also said it is ready to discuss a ceasefire and the exchange of prisoners of war.

S. Sudan looters steal food to feed 220,000 for a month – UN

The UN World Food Program may have lost more than 3,700 tons of food in looting in South Sudan, enough to feed 220,000 people for a month, Reuters reported. WFP’s warehouses in Malakal had been almost entirely emptied, spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said on Friday in Geneva. The agency was working to recover lost stocks wherever possible and trying to protect remaining stocks.

Attack at German сourt leaves 1 killed and 1 wounded

One man has been killed and another is in a life-threatening condition after an attack in a courthouse in Frankfurt, German police said. The suspected attacker used a firearm and wielded a knife, dpa reported. He was arrested shortly afterward.

Philippine police detain 4, seize drugs worth $22mn

Philippine police have arrested four men and seized 1 billion pesos ($22 million) worth of methamphetamine. This was the second large drug bust in Manila in 10 days. The National Police anti-illegal drugs task force said the men were driving a van filled with five wooden crates containing 200kg of crystal methamphetamine when they were stopped on Friday. Last week, the National Bureau of Investigation arrested four Canadian men suspected of trafficking drugs from Mexico in separate raids. Agents recovered $2.25 million worth of cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA, which is similar to Ecstasy.


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#TPPA Environment Chapter & Chair’s Commentary: WikiLeaks Issues for NZ 1

#AceSecurityNews says for those interested in the full content of the “Environmental Chapter” here it is in full, l have highlighted and marked the important parts, this may help when reading it, as it is a long document.  

The consolidated draft text of the Environment chapter of the Trans-Pacific partnership Agreement and the accompanying chair’s commentary have been posted in Wikileaks (http://wikileaks.org/tpp-enviro). The documents are dated 24 November 2013, the final day of the Salt Lake City round in November.

The chair’s commentary records the countries that objected to, and in some cases that supported, different aspects of the text. They are consistent with the chart (https://wikileaks.org/IMG/pdf/tpp-salt-lake-positions.pdf) that Wikileaks posted in December showing one country’s assessment of the 12 countries’ positions on many TPPA issues.

TPP What is Wrong?Overview

The Environment Chapter addresses matters of conservation, environment, biodiversity, indigenous knowledge and resources, over-fishing and illegal logging, and climate change, among others. It might be expected to provide balance to the commercial interests being advanced in the other chapters, and genuine protections that are consistent with international environmental law.

Instead of a 21st century standard of protection, the leaked text shows that the obligations are weak and compliance with them is unenforceable. Contrast that to other chapters that subordinate the environment, natural resources and indigenous rights to commercial objectives and business interests. The corporate agenda wins both ways.

The Strategy of a Consolidated Text

The Environment chapter is one of four that have been at stalemate for several years, the others being intellectual property, transparency in healthcare technologies and state-owned enterprises.

The leaked chairs’ text of the chapter and the accompanying chairs’ commentary provide an insight into the process that ministers adopted to break the deadlock on the core unresolved chapters. Both documents say the Ministers in Brunei asked Canada, as chair,2 to produce a consolidated text. It is not clear whether the same request was made to the chairs of the other working groups, but a similar kind of approach would seem likely.

A similar process has proved very controversial at the World Trade Organization (WTO) where it has been used to attempt to break deadlocks in the Doha round (http://focusweb.org/node/12). It was deployed most recently at the WTO ministerial conference (http://www.epw.in/commentary/what-happened-bali-wto-meet-and-why.html) in Bali, which immediately preceded the December 2013 meeting of TPPA ministers in Singapore.

A chairs’ text is meant to be a circuit breaker in negotiations that have become bogged down around a formal text by leaving that text behind. It can be an effective catalyst if all the countries buy into the process. Strong outlier positions can be diluted by the chair’s adoption of compromise or majority positions. The proponents can be marginalised and treated as obstructive if they insist on restoring them, especially if the chair has discretion over what to include and comes from a country that has a strong position themselves. That appears not to have been the approach of Canada in this case, but it could arise if the same approach has been taken for other chapters – especially ones that the US chairs. Successfully restoring positions to the text relies initially on the effectiveness and persistence of officials and subsequently on the relative power of ministers among the Group of 12, and the trade-offs they are willing to make if they consider the issue to be a red line.

The Politics of the Environment Chapter

The chairs’ report shows the main outlier for the Environment chapter is the US.

There are various reasons for that. There is a long history of resistance to environment rules being included in WTO agreements, and certainly becoming subject to trade sanctions through dispute settlement processes. Most of the FTAs that do not involve the US use hortatory language and are not enforceable.

Some parties have commercial interests and political sensitivities they wish to protect. The memorandum by the US environmental groups gives examples of over-fishing and shark-finning, illegal logging, and trade in endangered species and wildlife.

Australia, NZ the US and Canada were the four countries that voted against the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which recognises indigenous rights in relation to genetic resources and biodiversity.

Parties have divergent positions on Multilateral Environmental Agreements. The US has not signed the Convention on Biological Diversity and very few of the twelve countries have signed or ratified the subsequent Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization. The US is also not a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The US Political Dilemma

The US has a particular political dilemma. The text falls far below the standards it has insisted are included in all US free trade agreements since May 2007, which resulted from a deal reached between the Democrat-controlled Congress and President George W Bush.

The most fundamental problem for the US is the refusal of all the other countries to agree that the chapter should be subject to the same dispute settlement mechanism as the rest of the agreement. It provides for consultation at officials and ministerial levels, leading to arbitration and agreement to a plan of action, but there are no penalties if the state does not implement the plan.

Obama is going to find this a very hard sell to domestic constituencies. The timing of the leak could hardly be worse. On 9 January 2014 a Bill seeking fast track authority was presented to the Congress. The controversial fast track process requires the Congress to accept or reject the deal and imposes a strict time limit on debate. The numbers were already stacking up against the Bill, with Democrats especially critical of the erosion of their powers and the secrecy of the negotiations, as well as the reported content. This leaked environment chapter will further erode support among Democratic members of the House of Representatives who are up for re-election later this year. Obama is going to have to rely heavily on unfriendly Republicans.

Scope of the chapter

The scope of the chapter is unclear. There are references to environmental laws, policies, practices and proceedings, which is potentially very broad. But only ‘environmental laws’ is defined, and defined narrowly as laws whose primary purpose is either (a) protection of the environment or (b) preventing danger to human life or health, and only when those laws pursue this purpose through rules that relate to pollutants or environmental contaminants, control of environmentally hazardous or toxic materials, or conservation of wild flora or fauna. The chapter would not, for example, apply to resource management laws that seek to balance a range of commercial, recreational and environmental interests.

The chapter also only applies at the central/federal government level, whereas a large number of environmental regulations and decisions are sub-federal.

Indigenous rights and Biodiversity

Most of Article SS.13 on Trade and Biodiversity is weak and aspirational, drawing from the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). It will do nothing to neutralise rules in other chapters that enable commercial exploitation of biodiversity, especially the intellectual property chapter.

In paragraph 2, for example, parties commit to ‘promoting and encouraging the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and sharing in a fair and equitable way the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources.’

The sovereign rights of governments over natural resources to determine access to them and to legislation in paragraph 4 seems aimed at reasserting state control vis-a-vis indigenous people’s and local communities, not just over foreign interests.

Obligations in Article 13 are also subject to domestic legislation, which potentially makes them even more meaningless.

Prior consent to accessing genetic resources and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits in paragraph 5 relates to the state, not to indigenous people’s or local communities.

This falls far short of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which all the parties except for the US have now signed. The Obama administration announced in 2010 its intention to do so. Article 31 of the Declaration says:

  1. Indigenous people’s have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures, including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs, sports and traditional games and visual and performing arts. They also have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over such cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions.
  2. In conjunction with indigenous people’s, States shall take effective measures to recognize and protect the exercise of these rights.

Four countries (Malaysia, Peru, Vietnam and Brunei) want the provisions to extend to derivatives of genetic material, which is where the commercial benefits lie. This is consistent with the Nagoya Protocol, which refers in Article 5 to fair and equitable sharing of the benefits from the utilisation of genetic resources as well as subsequent applications and commercialisation.

Peru and Mexico also want a requirement in paragraph 3 for indigenous people’s and local communities to approve and be consulted on conservation and sustainable use of their knowledge, innovations and practices, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from their use. That is consistent with both the Nagoya Protocol and the UN Declaration.

New Zealand does not support either of these stronger positions. That is likely to create issues with iwi, and with the Maori Party, as the changes being proposed to strengthen the role of indigenous people’s appear to be consistent with the Waitangi Tribunal report Ko Aotearoa Tenei (WAI 262) on Maori traditional knowledge and resources.

The US says it cannot agree to the entire Article because it is not a party to the CBD.

Other issues for NZ

New Zealand is part of the WTO group ‘Friends of the Fish’. The proposals in Article SS16.6 to restrict fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing fall far short of the positions they have promoted. These are detailed in the US environment groups’ memo.

Article SS16.4 does not require a ban on shark finning.

In Article SS15 the parties merely agree to discuss ways to deal with climate change with possible links to the APEC process. The US and Australia oppose even that provision. There is no reference to the regional carbon-trading scheme that Trade and Climate Change Minister Tim Groser has been promoting, which would expose climate change measures even more deeply to speculative finance markets, although there is general recognition of market-based mechanisms.

Other chapters dealing with the environment

The environment chapter is one of many – the TPPA is generally described as having 29 chapters or sections of chapters. Environment policy, regulation and practices are affected by many other chapters, which impose substantive obligations and rules.

The most egregious threat to the environment is the investment chapter, in particular the prior consent by all countries except Australia to investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). The majority of investment arbitrations under similar agreements involve natural resources, especially mining, and have resulted in billions of dollars of damages against governments for measures designed to protect the environment from harm caused by foreign corporations. The US is also demanding that contracts between investors and states that involve natural resources also have access to ISDS.

Chapters that may impact on environmental measures, with some examples, include:

  • investment, eg challenges to tighter rules on mining and remediation rules, bans on fracking and nuclear energy, performance requirements on foreign investors to use of clean technology, restrictions on numbers and locations of waste plants or eco-tourism projects, not lowering environmental standards to attract investors
  • goods market access, eg tariffs (see Article CSR8 on zero tariffs)
  • non-tariff measures – eg green technologies for motor vehicles, prescribed manufacturing or processing methods
  • customs, eg preferential processing for smaller cc vehicles
  • agriculture, eg differential tariffs on organics
  • subsidies and countervailing measures, eg for green or clean energy production
  • sanitary and phytosanitary (quarantine), eg. bans on use of certain pesticides in products, bans or restrictions on imports of GE products
  • technical barriers to trade, eg. GE tracing labelling requirements, food content labelling, emission standards (see also non-tariff measures)
  • intellectual property, eg. new technologies, seeds, patented food products, organics trademarks, biodiversity, genetic resources
  • cross-border services eg. e-services including computerised remote operation of oil and gas extraction, engineering and other professional services, remediation services, delivery of environmental technologies; the chapter is likely to crossover with investment on local establishment of commercial activities, eg waste disposal and water companies, mining and fisheries processing operations, etc.
  • financial services eg. tradeable financial instruments such as energy derivatives, carbon credits.

 These chapters have their own rules, which would complement and possibly conflict with those in the environment chapter. Many will also have their own committees to review compliance, obligations and procedures for consultation, and enforcement mechanisms. For investment those mechanisms include investor-state dispute settlement.

The Transparency and Regulatory Coherence chapters require decision-making and regulatory processes that are also additional to those in the Environment chapter. They may involve preparation and disclosure of documents, right of participation of foreign commercial interests in domestic decision-making, review procedures, use of light handed regulation, and evidence to support the level of regulatory intrusion on commercial interests. These may collectively provide multiple pressure points on a government and assist investors to compile a dossier of material to use in a dispute, including investor-state disputes.

The standard general exceptions provisions are mostly subject to a ‘necessity’ test, requiring the government to adopt the measure for conservation, environment or human health purposes that intrudes least on commercial interests. It must also not be discriminatory or a ‘disguised barrier to trade’. The US has not agreed that this exception should apply to the investment chapter, although it is facing pressure to do so.

Unlike other leaked chapters, there is very little guidance on how the chapters inter-relate or what happens if there is a conflict.

Courtesy of: Professor Jane Kelsey

16 January 2014 (NZDT)


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“Government Anti-“Extremism” Campaign Hits Internet Content and Access in Russia”

Logo of Reporters Without Borders, animated tr...

Logo of Reporters Without Borders, animated trilingual version (English, French, Spanish). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

#AceGuestNews says according to a recent article in RFS the authorities have used the issue of national security to expand Web monitoring and censorship – even while continuing to promote and develop Internet access for the population at large. The Web has played a key role in the political debate prompted by legislative and presidential elections and in the post-election mobilization of the opposition and civil society. These developments provoked a strong official response. The blogosphere has grown stronger and better organized in the face of state attacks.

Government anti-“extremism” campaign hits Internet content and access

President George W. Bush of the United States ...

President George W. Bush of the United States and President Vladimir Putin of Russia, exchange handshakes Thursday, June 7, 2007, after their meeting at the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm, Germany. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Prime Minister (now President-elect) Vladimir Putin said on 9 February 2012: “Negative phenomena exist everywhere, including on the Internet, and should not be used as a pretext to limit Internet freedom.” However, the authorities have used the justification of preventing violence to reinforce their control of the Internet, with the Federal Security Service (FSB) taking steps to close a number of online organizations in late 2011. Most of these groups have clearly called on their members to respect the law and not to let themselves be provoked into violence.

The government list of “extremist” content, as well as the boundaries of the category itself, keep growing. It now includes everything touching on religion and issues of ethnicity, which have become taboo subjects on RuNet – as the Russian Internet is known. That list is the basis of official demands to take down content, and of actions to block site access (see the Russia chapter in the 2011 report on Enemies of the Internet).

The process of domain name registration could affect freedom of expression online by leading to closure of more sites. New rules promulgated by Nic.ru, the biggest Russian domain name-registration company, allow the cancellation of domain names for inciting violence, “extremist” activity, advocating overthrow of the government, activity in conflict with human dignity or religious beliefs. The rules reflected new official regulations. Domain name-registration companies are authorized to suspend names in the .ru and .rf (pΦ) domains upon written notification from “agencies conducting an investigation.” That provision would potentially authorize prosecutors, the FSB, the police, or the drug enforcement agency (FSKN) to order such a move.

In Tomsk, Siberia, the broadcast arm of Roskomnadzor, the federal mass communications supervisory agency, has recently pressured the regional television network TV-2 to stop transmitting two news programs by Dozhd, the first Internet TV network in Russia, whose content is critical of the government.

Anatoly Baranov, owner of the forum.msk.ru discussion platform, states that the Yandex search engine filtered out news items from his site on Yandex.News searches.

Danger of the spread of online monitoring and censorship

English: Flag of Roskomnadzor Русский: Флаг Ро...

English: Flag of Roskomnadzor Русский: Флаг Роскомнадзора (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Roskomnadzor, whose regulatory authority extends to information technology and mass communications, has announced that it has installed on-line software to detect “extremist” material. The sites identified through this process will be given three days to take down content that meets this ill-defined standard. If a site does not comply, two additional warnings will be sent. The site will then be shut down.

The software was to go into operation in test mode in December, 2011. Its full deployment has beenpostponed indefinitely. Nevertheless, it carries the risk of system-wide monitoring of the Russian Weband could lead eventually to the taking down of all content that displeases the authorities.

The justice ministry, for its part, has invited bids to create its own monitoring system of content on the Internet. Such a system would allow close examination of all content touching on Russian government and justice systems, and any European Union statement concerning Russia.

Bloggers under pressure

Prison sentences and violent attacks were less frequent in 2011, except during the election campaign period. Yet legal proceedings and pressures of all kind continue – above all when the activities of netizens focus on sensitive topics and powerful interest groups.

Maj. Igor Matveev of the interior ministry garrison in Vladivostok has been prosecuted on charges that seem to have been prompted by his revelations last June of practices in the military region where he served. He reported that troops were served dog food in cans falsely labelled as containing beef stew. He faces a possible 10-year sentence.

Yuri Yegorov, a former employee of the regional government of Tatarstan’s human rights ombudsman’s office, received a six-month suspended sentence last June, as well as two years of probation, for defamation. He had revealed a case of alleged corruption in the ombudsman’s office, headed by Rashit Vagiov, that took place from February to July 2007.

Leonid Kaganov, a prominent blogger, was forced last May to house his site abroad. In 2009, the FSB had demanded, through his hosting service, the removal of an anti-Semitic poem that was on his site because he had mocked it.

Roman Hoseyev is the target of administrative action for having quoted from “Mein Kampf” on a site in 2005, before the 2010 banning of the book in Russia. He had drawn comparisons between statements by US President George W. Bush and Hitler.

No information has been received about the fate of a Navy conscript who blogged under the nameVasily, publishing on Twitter under the name Sosigusyan. He denounced hazing and poor living conditions in his unit. His Twitter account was hacked and the content about the military taken down, except for the last three posts, which were written by another person.

Propaganda and cyber-attacks

In addition to mounting a campaign of repression against on-line oppositionists, the Kremlin deploys its own cyber-weapons. Several thousand Twitter accounts were hacked at the end of 2011 in order to flood social media with pro-government messages, using hashtags popular with oppositionists (notably, #navalny, from the name of the well-known political activist and anti-corruption bloggerAlexei Navalny, and #триумфалънпая, from Triumfalnaya Square in Moscow).

LiveJournal was taken down by DDOS in 2006.

LiveJournal was taken down by DDOS in 2006. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many Russian bloggers have pointed to a wave of “bots” unleashed against the LiveJournal social media platform. Oleg Kozyrev, an opposition blogger, has counted more than 2,000 of these software weapons.

Oppositionist Navalny’s e-mail inbox has been hacked, with the contents displayed on a site called navalnymail.kz. According to several bloggers, this action could be part of a government-organized campaign to discredit Navalny.

The wave of cyber-attacks peaked at the time of the legislative elections last December. A series of Distributed Denial of Service attacks paralyzed sites critical of the government before and during the vote, apparently to silence the dissidents. Access to LiveJournal, which hosts blogs critical of the Kremlin, was blocked for three days, starting on 1 December 2011. The site had already suffered a DDoS attack the month before.

Among other Web targets are:

  • Echo of Moscow radio’s site, Echo.msk.ru
  • The independent daily Kommersant’s site, komersant.ru
  • The election-monitoring NGO’s site, golos.org
  • KartaNarusheniy.ru, an interactive map created by Golos to track reports of election fraud
  • Gazeta.ru, an independent news site
  • Lenizdat.ru, a Saint Petersburg-based independent news site
  • Slonl.ru and Newtimes.ru, opposition sites which posted the Golos map after Gazeta.ru took it down
  • Ridus.ru, a citizen-journalism site
  • Doshdu.ru, the site of Dosh, an independent news magazine about the Russian Caucasus
  • Zaks.ru, a news site on the northwest region.

Some media organizations and opposition groups, having anticipated these developments, migrated to social networks and called on their readers to follow them on Twitter and Facebook in the event that their sites went down.

Disputed elections, attempted control of online political debate

Most traditional media organizations, notably television networks, are under Kremlin control, genuine political discussions have been possible only online. Any measure deemed necessary to uphold the country’s strongman, Putin, has been considered appropriate.

Even before and during the legislative elections, debates had been hindered by cyber-attacks and by the arrests of journalists and bloggers. Those detained included Alexey Sochnev, the editor of the independent news site Besttoday.ru; Maria Plieva, a prominent blogger in Ossetia; and the president of Golos, Lilia Chibanova.

Golos’ interactive election-fraud monitoring map proved to be a great success as the elections unfolded. Thousands of videos showing irregularities at voting places were posted to the site, prompting Russians to take to the streets in great numbers to denounce election fraud. Navalny and many journalists were arrested during these post-election demonstrations,

The great majority of traditional media organizations – especially television networks – ignored these events. Instead, they provided largely favourable coverage of Putin’s party, United Russia, which swept the legislative elections.

English: Emblem of Federal Security Service of...

English: Emblem of Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation. Español: Emblema del Servicio Federal de Seguridad. Русский: Эмблема ФСБ. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The social media site Vkontakte, which has more than 5 million members in Russia, found itself in the government spotlight. The FSB told the site’s founder and director, Pavel Durov, to shut down seven groups calling for demonstrations last December (including a group rallying to defend the ruling party). A Russian blogger estimated that up to 185,000 netizens subscribed to protest-organizing groups. A spokesman for Vkontakte said publicly that the site would not practice censorship and would not carry out the FSB order. Following the statement, Durov was summoned to appear before prosecutors in Saint Petersburg on 9 December.

Regional discussion forums, very popular at the provincial level, with most participants anonymous, have become a favourite resource for political debate among Russian netizens, and a nightmare for the authorities. However, these sites are less powerful than the national media and easy to censor, though that has not prevented netizens from migrating to other sites, hosted abroad. At least three forums were closed or suspended during the months leading up to the early December elections.

One of these sites is the Kostroma Jedis regional forum, which was targeted following the posting of two satirical videos criticizing Igor Slyunyaev, governor of the Kostroma region, some 300 km northwest of Moscow. In November, other forums were shut down or purged of all political content by their administrators. One such case occurred in the Arzamas, a city 410 km east of Moscow, affecting the mcn.nnov.ru site. Another took place in the west-central city of Miass, 95 km west of Chelyabinsk, affecting the forum.miass.ru site. It is not clear if these were cases of official action or self-censorship. In either case, the closing of these forums signifies a narrowing of the possibilities for political debate on the Russian Web.

In the run-up to the presidential election in March, Golos, the election-monitoring NGO, put up a new version of its interactive map to track election fraud, with stronger defences against cyber-attack. Navalny, the activist and blogger, mounted a site, Rosvybory.org, to assist citizens in becoming presidential election observers.

The campaign of repression mounted for the legislative elections illustrated the official attitude toward protest. And the official response was designed to create a deterrent to popular action in the presidential election period. Tensions grew during the months between the two elections. On 17 February, Reporters Without Borders denounced a wave of intimidation aimed at national independent media. Major targets included Echo of MoscowNovaya Gazeta, an independent newspaper, and Dozhd, the online television operation. The latter organization received a fax on 16 February from the Moscow prosecutor’s office, demanding detailed information on the “network’s financing for coverage of mass demonstrations on 10 and 24 December.”

These barely veiled accusations against Dozhd track precisely with statements by Prime Minister Putin, who had publicly accused demonstrators of having acted at the encouragement of the US state department. Roskomnadzor, the mass communications authority, had already required Dozhd to defend its coverage of the December protests. After examining in detail the images that the network had transmitted, the agency finally concluded that they contained nothing objectionable.

Journalists were again arrested and beaten during the post-election demonstrations of 5 March 2012. The clear goal was to prevent coverage of the demonstrations. However, contrary to what was seen in December, cyber-attacks seem to have been set aside – for now.

Export of the Russian model of Web control?

Russia has played a leading role on the international scene in promoting its vision of the Internet and exporting its Web control strategy. Moscow has proposed to the UN, together with China, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, an Internet conduct code designed to provide “information security.”

The impact of the Kremlin’s policy is all the greater because the RuNet sphere of influence extends throughout the region, influencing countries such as Belarus and Kazakhstan in their Internet monitoring and censorship programs.



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The Economic Cost of a U.S. Military Strike on Syria

Launch of a Tactical Tomahawk cruise missile f...

Launch of a Tactical Tomahawk cruise missile from the USS Stethem. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

#AceWorldNews says as federal lawmakers and the American people grapple with the possibility of U.S. military intervention in Syria, NPP brings you  a new interactive tool tracking the Cost of National Security. The site features counters displaying the real-time running cost of U.S. military programs, including theTomahawk Cruise Missile – the weapon to be used in a strike on Syria.

Courtesy of NPP’s Weekly Roundup

A snapshot of NPP’s rolling counter showing how much U.S. taxpayers have spent so far in 2013 on Tomahawk Missiles.


#american-civil-war, #bloomberg-television, #george-w-bush, #kevin-connor, #martin-dempsey, #middle-east, #philippine, #public-accountability-initiative, #raytheon, #stephen-hadley, #syria, #tomahawk, #united-states, #united-states-armed-forces

George W Bush’s New Crusade to Convert Jews to Christianity

George W Bush‘s New ‘Crusade’: Converting Jews to Christianity
George W Bush bows his head in prayer during an event marking the 2005 National Day of Prayer. (photo: Win Mcnamee/Getty Images)
Andrew Brown, Guardian UK
Brown writes: “Some people think George W Bush did as much as he could to bring about Armageddon with his earlier interventions in the Middle East. But not the man himself, apparently. He has signed up for a fundraising event for the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute, an organization which aims to promote the second coming by converting Jews to Christianity, and will speak today at their fundraiser in Irving, Texas.”


#acenewsservices, #armageddon, #christianity, #christianity-andrew-brown, #george-bush, #george-w-bush, #irving-texas, #jews, #messianic-jewish-bible-institute, #messianic-judaism, #middle-east, #related-articles-george-w-bush

#Syria Crisis Live – As it happens – when it happens #peace

International pressure has been building for a military strike on Syria in the wake of an alleged chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb. The West has laid the blame at the feet of President Assad, as UN experts collected chemical samples on-site.

All Syria’s chemical weapons production lines destroyed – OPCW

Published time: October 31, 2013 11:45
An image grab taken from Syrian television shows an inspector from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) at work at an undisclosed location in Syria (AFP Photo/Syrian television )
Download video (15.31 MB)
Damascus has met the first disarmament deadline, having destroyed all previously declared chemical weapons production and mixing equipment, the international watchdog has confirmed.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has acknowledged that Damascus has complied with the watchdog’s decision, adopted on September 27, on complete elimination of chemical weapons and means for production in Syria before November 1.

Teams of experts have visited 21 out of 23 declared chemical weapon production sites (with 41 buildings and structures) and witnessed destruction of equipment at the facilities. The only two uninspected facilities were “too dangerous” to visit, but inspectors have confirmed that equipment from those two had been previously evacuated to safe locations and also destroyed.

“The OPCW is satisfied it has verified, and seen destroyed, all declared critical production/mixing/filling equipment from all 23 sites,” the OPCW document states.

PCW Director-General, Ahmet Üzümcü, has already welcomed a group of eight inspectors back to the OPCW headquarters in The Hague. They had worked in Syria as part of the Advanced Team since October 1.

Yet thousands of tons of warfare agents and chemicals remain to be eliminated.

Earlier Ahmet Üzümcü confirmed that Syria declared the possession of 1,300 tons of chemicals and precursors needed for chemical weapons production, as well as over 1,200 empty chemical munitions.

The process of elimination of all Syria’s chemical weapons is expected to take nine months.

 An image grab taken from Syrian television on October 19, 2013 shows an inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) at work at an undisclosed location in Syria. (AFP Photo/Syrian television)An image grab taken from Syrian television on October 19, 2013 shows an inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) at work at an undisclosed location in Syria. (AFP Photo/Syrian television)

It must be mentioned that on October 11 the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was awarded the Nobel Prize for unprecedented efforts in eliminating chemical weapons. Over the 16 years of the OPCW’s watch, more than 80 percent of chemical weapons stockpiles worldwide have been eliminated.

The program of total elimination of Syria’s chemical arsenal was initiated by Moscow after the August 21 attack in Damascus, where malefactors of disputed origin used homemade chemical agents to slaughter civilians.

Some US allies in the Middle East called on Washington to start military aggression against Syria, on the pretext that it was the regime of President Bashar Assad that had used chemical weapons against its own people.

The US administration accepted Russia’s proposal to force President Assad to give up chemical stockpiles, amid accusations from allies that Washington was breaking its promise to launch a military strike on Assad if he crossed the ‘red line’ of resorting to chemical weapons.

However, Washington opted not to be dragged into yet another military conflict in the Middle East.

UN inspectors visit 21 of 23 chemical sites in Syria

The security situation in Syria has prevented international inspectors from visiting two remaining chemical weapons sites, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Inspectors have visited 21 out of 23 chemical sites, Itar-Tass reported. “The two remaining sites have not been visited due to security reasons,” the Hague-based international watchdog said in a statement. It added that Syria has presented in time a formal declaration on its chemical weapons program, including a schedule of their destruction.

Friday, October 11

Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical W...

Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Plaque (Photo credit: PEO, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives)

08:00 GMT: This year’s Nobel Peace Prize is set to go to the OPCW, the organization currently tasked with overseeing Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal handover to international hands – according to a Norwegian public broadcaster.

03:25 GMT: Nearly two dozen of the commentators who appeared on major media outlets to discuss a possible US military strike on Syria had relationships with contractors and other organizations with avested interest in the conflict, according to a new report.

OPCW Update – October 9  

150 px

150 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

New York, Oct  9 2013  3:00PM
The head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) today called on all parties in the Syrian conflict to cooperate so that a joint United Nations mission tasked with overseeing the destruction of the country’s chemical stockpiles can carry out its work as quickly as possible.

“We have urged all parties in Syria to be cooperative and to contribute positively to this mission,” the OPCW’s Director-General, Ahmet Üzümcü, said during a press conference in The Hague, and added that temporary ceasefires will permit the experts to carry out their work.

“Much depends on the situation on the ground,” he said, stressing that the deadline for destroying the chemical weapons is “extremely tight” and that there have been significant logistical and security challenges.

“I think that the elimination of those weapons is in the interest of all. Therefore, if we can assure some cooperation by all parties and some temporary ceasefires could be established in order to permit our experts to work in a permissible environment… I think the targets could be reached,”

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution two weeks ago calling for the speedy implementation of procedures drawn up by the OPCW for the “expeditious destruction of the Syrian Arab Republic’s chemical weapons programme and stringent verification thereof.”

The destruction of chemical weapons facilities, stocks and associated material is the responsibility of the Syrian Government, since neither the OPCW nor the UN is mandated to conduct actual destruction activities.

An advance team for the UN-OPCW mission began its work on 6 October, and Mr. Üzümcü said some equipment has already been destroyed. He added that first verification activities have to be completed by the end of this month and production facilities will have to be rendered unusable by that time as well, with the view of destroying all chemical weapons capabilities by mid-2014.

Mr. Üzümcü said Syrian authorities have been cooperative so far, and added that 12 additional experts were deployed to Damascus, the capital, today.

Monday, October 7

12:45 GMT: People in countries whose governments are not directly involved in the Syrian crisis mostly oppose military intervention against the government of President Bashar Assad, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed. Overall, 52 percent of people surveyed in September favored military intervention and 57 percent were against their own country taking part in such an operation.

The survey was conducted in 15, mostly European countries, but excluded Iran, Russia and China, which are supporting Damascus in the ongoing crisis, as well as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, which are most directly involved in the rebels’ fight against the Syrian government.

In the survey, Argentina was the country most strongly opposed to military intervention in Syria, with 68 percent of people against it.

Some 36 percent of people surveyed said that Assad’s government was responsible for the use of chemical weapons, the accusation which the US voiced as a reason for a possible strike in Syria. About a quarter believe that both the Syrian army and the opposition used chemical weapons at some point of time, while another quarter said they didn’t know who was behind the attacks.

12:37 GMT: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has posted a statement on its website, saying that Syria is being “cooperative” in the operation to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal.

“Discussions were held with the Syrian authorities on the disclosure which Syria earlier provided to the OPCW on its chemical weapons program,” the statement said, adding that the talks were “constructive.”

Saturday, October 5

6:00 GMT: The Syrian government has gone beyond its pledge and handed over additional information on its chemical weapons program to international experts. UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said the new data had been received by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the OPCW countries should expect an update by Tuesday.

Thursday, October 3

18:00 GMT: The initial United Nations report on how Syria will dispose of its chemical weapons will be presented on October 7, says Russian UN envoy Vitaly Churkin.

“The chemical weapons experts are already in place in Syria, and have started work” Churkin told Rossiya-24, a Russian news channel.

“The UN Secretary General’s report on October 7 will indicate what role the United Nations will play in the carrying out of the chemical weapons resolution passed by the Security Council.”

16:26 GMT: An international team of chemical weapons experts who arrived in Damascus on Tuesday has been making “encouraging initial progress” according to the UN. It is working towards the full elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles  – a task they believe to be achievable by mid-2014.

“Documents handed over yesterday by the Syrian Government look promising, according to team members, but further analysis, particularly of technical diagrams, will be necessary and some more questions remain to be answered,” said the UN statement.

Tuesday, October 1

14:50 GMT: The Israeli ambassador to Moscow, Dorit Golender, has said that her country backs the plan to place Syrian chemical weapons under international control. “Israel has welcomed the US-Russia plan. But results are determined by deeds,” Golender told RIA Novosti.

12:26 GMT:
 The team of twenty international OPCW inspectors who are tasked with the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria have entered the country from Lebanon over the Masnaa border.

11:30 GMT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has expressed doubts that the West will be successful in getting the Syrian opposition to take part in the ‘Geneva-2’ peace conference due to be held mid-November.

“Regarding opposition representation – this remains to be settled. Until recently we have been relying on our Western partners who pledged to push the opposition to the negotiations table and we hoped they would manage it quickly. But so far they have not succeeded. And I am not sure they will by mid-November” Lavrov told reporters at a press conference.

11:00 GMT: Russian representatives will work alongside the OPCW inspectors in Syria and take active part in the operation to dismantle chemical weapons in the country, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told reporters.

Monday, September 30

20:43 GMT: Work on the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria will begin October 1, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky confirmed. “The beginning of this joint operation is scheduled for tomorrow,” he stated at a briefing in New York. Nesirky added that a group of UN experts have returned from Syria and said their report will be completed by the end of October.

20:19 GMT: Turkey’s parliament will debate the motion to authorize military strikes on Syria this Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told Turkish media.

15:05 GMT: China says that it will send its experts to oversee the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.

13:45 GMT: China has condemned an attack on its embassy in Damascus, in which one embassy staff was injured. A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry has also demanded that “all parties in Syria strictly adhere to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and ensure the safety of diplomatic organizations and their members in a proper way.”

Earlier on Monday, Chinese media reported that an area adjacent to the country’s embassy in Damascus was shelled by mortar rounds, and that one of the shells exploded in the embassy’s yard, damaging one building and injuring at least one member of staff. The diplomatic mission temporarily suspended its work, but no evacuation of staff was reported.

11:31 GMT: The team of UN experts investigating use of chemical weapons in Syrian civil war left Damascus on Monday after completing their six-day mission to investigate several cases of alleged chemical weapons use in the country. The investigators’ report, on seven separate cases of alleged use of chemical weapons during the Syrian conflict, is due to be presented sometime in October.

09:38 GMT: France was ready to launch air strikes against Syria’s chemical weapons facilities on Sept. 1, Le Nouvel Observateur reported, but the country’s president, Francois Hollande, had to call the operation off after President Barack Obama decided to seek approval from the US Congress for a military operation against Syria. France’s Rafale fighter jets had planned to launch missiles while flying the Mediterranean, without entering Syrian airspace, the news magazine reported.

08:56 GMT: The Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly, which advises the European Union on human rights issues, plans to hold an urgent debate on Syria on Oct. 3 in Strasbourg, France.

Russia’s representative to the assembly, Duma Foreign Affairs committee chairman Aleksey Pushkov, told journalists that the assembly should pass a resolution on the conflict.

“Syria is the key issue in international politics and there is no doubt that PACE should have a resolution,”Pushkov said, adding that there had been a “serious evolution” in the country. “While two years ago, the prevailing view was that there was a democratic revolution in Syria and people are fighting tyranny, now opinions have changed toward Russia’s stance on this issue,”  Pushkov said.

Sunday, September 29

21:13 GMT: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have seen a “positive start” to their work in Syria, Itar-Tass reports, citing an OPCW brief in the Hague. “So far our interaction with the Syrians has been very businesslike and very efficient,” said an OPCW official. Both parties’ intention is to develop a relationship based on mutual trust, saying that the OPCW team of experts have no reason to believe that the Syrian government is trying to hide its chemical weapons. The OPCW brief also said that no unannounced inspections of chemical weapons sites are planned, as that would facilitate mistrust between the two sides.

Saturday, September 28

20:07 GMT: Damascus will not accept any transition plan that excludes President Bashar Assad, Foreign Minister Walid al Moallem told AP Saturday on the sideline of the UN General Assembly. “For the Syrian people, Bashar Assad is the elected president until mid-2014, when presidential elections will be held,” al Moallem said. Earlier the foreign minister told RT that the Syrian civil war could end in weeks if the West and Gulf States stopped supporting the insurgents on the ground.

18:50 GMT: Russia reached its aim of making sure professionals from the international chemical weapons watchdog are the main actors regarding the UN resolution on Syria, and that there are no loopholes for military action, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov told Russia’s Channel One News.

Lavrov admitted the Russian-American compromise on the UNSC resolution “did not come easy.” But the Russian side has “achieved its goal” in that the resolution on Syria, supporting another document by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), “remains within the framework of the Geneva Communiqué.”

00:17: GMT: The UN Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution outlining the details of taking under international control and ultimately destroying Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.

The target date for a new peace conference in Geneva was set for mid-November. However, the Syrian opposition should be represented at the Geneva peace talks in a single delegation, the Secretary-General said.

The adopted resolution calls for consequences if inspectors decide that Syria has failed to fulfill its obligations.

Friday, September 27

22:50 GMT: The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has adopted a decision on Syria chemical arms by consensus, the UK ambassador to the UN said.

The Executive Council has adopted the decision regarding #Syria

— OPCW (@OPCW) September 27, 2013


22:30 GMT: The meeting of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is taking place several hours later than planned. This could push back the timeframe of the Security Council vote on a draft resolution even further.

The UK ambassador to the UN has announced that the meeting of OPCW in the Hague has been delayed until delayed until 00:30 local time or 18:30pm EDT. The OPCW Executive Council was earlier planning to meet at 22:00 Friday.

The UN Security Council is scheduled to meet at 20:00 EDT for a ministerial level vote on a draft resolution on Syrian chemical weapons.

Thursday, September 26

17:10 GMT: France has stated that progress is being made over a UN Security Council resolution on Syria’s chemical weapons.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that “France’s demands have been satisfied at this point,” and that talks have “progressed overall,” following Wednesday’s meeting of five powers. However, there remain“some issues to clarify” before a resolution is adopted, he told reporters.

17:00 GMT: Martin Nesirky, the spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Martin Ban Ki-Moon said that the format of a meeting on Syria involving Ban Ki-moon, Lavrov and Kerry is broadening and will naturally involve United Nations and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi. “We already said that a trilateral meeting with Minister Lavrov, Secretary of State Kerry, as well as the Secretary General, and naturally Mr. Brahimi, would take place. This format is now expanding,” he said.

15:55 GMT: UN chemical arms experts have started their mission the day after returning to Syria. For security reasons, their schedule and the sites they will visit have not being disclosed. According to UN spokesman Martin Nesirky, the UN experts’ agenda will depend on the situation. Syria initially agreed to allow UN experts to visit three different locations. The teams will focus on examining 14 alleged attacks when chemical weapons or chemical agents were used.

Wednesday, September 25

08:54 GMT: UN chemical experts have once again returned to Damascus, AFP says.

Tuesday, September 24

17:00 GMT: The solution to the Syrian conflict must be a political one, as too much time has been wasted in solving the country’s crisis, French President Francois Hollande said in his speech at the opening day of the UN General Assembly.

But the French president reiterated that the UN Security Council resolution on Syria should include the application of Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which allows the use of military force.

16:44 GMT: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has approved a draft resolution on Syria, a diplomatic source told the RIA Novosti news agency. The source added that the organization did not have any outstanding issues with the proposal, and added that the UN Security Council would draft a resolution only after the OPCW presented its version.

14:00 GMT: Military victory in Syria is “an illusion,” with “political settlement” being the only way out of the crisis in the country, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said as he addressed world leaders in his opening speech at the General Assembly.

The UN chief has called on Syrian President Bashar Assad, the country’s opposition and “all those in this hall with influence over them” to work immediately to arrange a second Geneva peace conference aimed at reaching a political solution.

13:28 GMT: While concentrating on chemical weapons, the international community mustn’t forget that the flow of conventional weapons to Syria also remains a pressing issue, UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, said at the opening of the organization’s General Assembly in New York.

“We can hardly be satisfied with destroying chemical weapons, while a wider war is still destroying Syria. The majority of the deaths in Syria were caused by normal weapons and I call on foreign powers to halt the flow of arms into the country,” he said.

“The Syrian government must commit to its pledges over its chemical weapons arsenal,”
 Ban added.

07:30 GMT: UN chemical weapons inspectors are to return to Syria on Wednesday to continue their mission, said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov.

The experts were sent to investigate several cases of alleged use of chemical weapons, but their work was disrupted by the August 21 attack, which killed an estimated 1,400 people. The team was redirected to the location of the new incident to conduct a probe and produce an intermediate report on it. However, they were expected to continue their initial mission later.

“We are satisfied that our persistent calls for the return of the UN inspectors for an investigation of the previous episodes have finally borne fruit,” the Russian diplomat commented.

Russia criticized the intermediate report presented at the UN last week, which some Western countries took as blaming the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad for the attack. Moscow says the evidence is not conclusive and argued that a more comprehensive assessment of the situation would prove that Syrian rebels could have been involved in both this and previous attacks.

Saturday, September 20

09:30 GMT: Russia could change its position on Syria if it is discovered that President Bashar Assad is“cheating”, the head of the Russian Presidential Administration Sergey Ivanov said.

“I’m speaking theoretically and hypothetically, but if it appears certain to us that Assad is cheating, we may change our position,” Ivanov said at the International Institute for Strategic Studies ‘Global Strategic Review’ conference in Stockholm.

Ivanov also questioned how the world would respond if it turns out that both Damascus and the Syrian opposition had deployed chemical weapons.

“Just imagine what the international community would do then,” he questioned.

Ivanov reiterated that Russia saw no other option than to navigate the ongoing crisis in Syria diplomatically, adding that within a week the full extent of Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal would be known.

Friday, September 20

09:30 GMT: Russia could change its position on Syria if it is discovered that President Bashar Assad is“cheating”, the head of the Russian Presidential Administration Sergey Ivanov said.

“I’m speaking theoretically and hypothetically, but if it appears certain to us that Assad is cheating, we may change our position,” Ivanov said at the International Institute for Strategic Studies ‘Global Strategic Review’ conference in Stockholm.

Ivanov also questioned how the world would respond if it turns out that both Damascus and the Syrian opposition had deployed chemical weapons.

“Just imagine what the international community would do then,” he questioned.

Ivanov reiterated that Russia saw no other option than to navigate the ongoing crisis in Syria diplomatically, adding that within a week the full extent of Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal would be known.

18:10 GMT: The US will thoroughly examine data on Syria’s chemical arsenal, which the government of Bashar Assad passed to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. Syria has already forwarded the OPCW a draft record of its chemical arsenal, she added.

14:29 GMT: Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and US Secretary of State, John Kerry, have held telephone consultations on the situation in Syria in view of the agreement to place all the country’s chemical weapons under international supervision. The call was initiated by the American side, the Russian Foreign ministry said.

13:18 GMT: Damascus has submitted a detailed index of its chemical weapons stockpiles and production facilities to the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the group told Reuters on Friday. The OPCW won’t release details of what it has received, AP reports.

On Saturday, Russia and the United States reached a deal on a framework that will see the destruction or removal of Syria’s chemical weapons by mid- 2014. Under the plan, the Assad government had one week to hand over an inventory of its chemical weapons arsenal. Syria is believed to have around 1,000 metric tonnes of chemical agents.

Meanwhile, the OPCW has postponed a meeting on Syria originally set for this Sunday, AFP reports. No new date has been given for the meeting.

12:40 GMT: RT’s Maria Finoshina, currently in Syria has spoken to Maaloula residents who were forced to flee their predominantly Christian village when it was seized by jihadists. Having found temporary asylum in Damascus, they still live in fear having not overcome the shock of what had happened. They are also worried about the fate of their missing relatives. Very few are ready to speak to journalists as a result.

12:20 GMT: Finland is ready to provide its experts for destroying the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal, according to the country’s Foreign Ministry statement, cited by Itar-Tass news agency.

11:50 GMT: The Syrian government is expected to submit data concerning its chemical weapons to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) by September 22, according to the spokesman for the watchdog, Michael Luhan.  

11:20 GMT: Up to 400 Russian citizens could be fighting in Syria now, according to Sergey Smirnov, first deputy head of the Federal Security Service (FSB).

We estimate that around 300-400 people have left Russia for Syria. They will come back and that represents a big threat,” he said.

Thursday, September 19

20:00 GMT: French President Francois Hollande has suggested that Paris could arm Syrian rebels, but do it carefully enough to avoid the weapons falling into the hands of jihadists.

On delivering weapons, we have always said that we want to control these supplies so that they do indeed go to the Free Syrian Army … because they represent the Syrian National Coalition that we recognize as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and today they are caught between a hammer and an anvil. The hammer is the air strikes and actions of the Syrian regime and the anvil is radical Islam,” Hollande said as cited by Reuters.

French President Francois Hollande (AFP Photo/Issouf Sanogo)French President Francois Hollande (AFP Photo/Issouf Sanogo)

The French president highlighted Russia supplying arms to the Syrian government as one of the reasons for his decision to provide the rebels with arms.

19:26 GMT: US Secretary of State John Kerry urged the UN Security Council to take action on Syria next week.

The Security Council must be prepared to act next week,” Kerry told reporters. “It is vital for the international community to stand up and speak out in the strongest possible terms about the importance of enforceable action to rid the world of Syria’s chemical weapons.

Kerry said that although the UN mission in Syria had no mandate to determine who was behind the Ghouta chemical attack which claimed hundreds of lives in August, the facts provided by inspectors clearly implicate that Bashar Assad’s government is to blame.

18:30 GMT: Christian leaders from the World Council of Churches (WCC) are planning a summit on Syria, similar to the Geneva II negotiations world powers have long been trying to hold.

There is no military solution to Syria,” the general secretary of the WCC, Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, told journalists. “Now is the time to say everyone has failed and there has to be a change and that change has to include all parties and that includes the president [of Syria].

17:45 GMT: The World Bank has said that the refugee crisis engulfing Lebanon as a result of the Syrian civil war will cost the country $7.5 billion.

17:40 GMT: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the world’s chemical weapons watchdog, will meet Sunday to discuss the Russian-US plan to destroy Syria’s arsenal, it said.

17:30 GMT: Bulgaria has asked the EU for aid to help it cope with Syrian refugees, the interior minister said Thursday.  Over 4,000 illegal immigrants, about half of them from Syria, are seeking asylum in Bulgaria and Sofia says its capacity is at breaking point.

17:25 GMT: NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he doesn’t foresee NATO playing a role in the agreement to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons, but said that individual NATO countries may help to implement it.

14:15 GMT: Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that he believes the use of chemical weapons in Damascus on August 21 was a provocation on the part of the Syrian rebels.

We have every grounds to believe that it was a provocation. Of course, it was adroit and clever, but, at the same time, primitive in terms of technical performance. They took an old Soviet-made missile, which was taken out of service in the Syrian army long ago. It was most important to have ‘made in the USSR’ written [on the missile],” Putin said at the Valdai discussion forum on Thursday.

12:30 GMT: Russia is ready to take part in the transportation and destruction of Syrian chemical weapons, according to Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu

What awaits us is a huge and serious task to fulfill, and we are only at the beginning of the process,” said Shoigu as cited by Vesti24. “Whatever role we get when it comes to international control [of Syrian chemical weapons] –  be it transportation or destruction – Russia and its military forces are naturally ready to take it on.”

12:15 GMT: An estimated 130 French nationals or immigrants are now fighting in Syria, according to the country’s Interior Minister, Manuel Valls.

It worries me because they could represent a potential threat [to France] upon their return,” Valls said, as cited by France 24.

The Minister specified that the number is bigger than in other recent conflicts in the region, such as Iraq or Afghanistan.

12:00 GMT: Turkey has shut one of its border gates to Syria following fighting, which took place in the Syrian town of Azaz near the Turkish frontier.  Two rebel groups reportedly confronted each other – an Al-Qaeda affiliated group clashed with the Western-backed Free Syrian Army, according to a Turkish official, cited by Reuters.

The Oncupinar border gate has been closed for security reasons as there is still confusion about what is happening on the Syrian side. All humanitarian assistance that normally goes through the gate has ceased,” the official said.

11:25 GMT: Russia is completely ready for the possible evacuation of its citizens from Syria in case it is needed, according to Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, cited by RIA news agency. Seven thousand Russian citizens are currently in Syria. The Minister said he was ordered by President Putin to prepare the evacuation plans.

Wednesday, September 18

23:58 GMT: The US is working with Syrians to collect evidence to use against President Bashar Assad, who should “absolutely” be tried for crimes against humanity, a top US official on war crimes said.

“Enormous crimes have been committed that can be traced directly to the highest levels of the Syrian regime,” Stephen Rapp, the US ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, told Yahoo News on Wednesday.

Rapp added that the mounting evidence would make prosecution easier than cases “we’ve seen at the international level against a chief of state.”

“Without question, there are credible, very credible allegations of crimes against humanity, murder, rape, mutilation, other crimes,” Rapp said. “And, of course, since we now have a civil war these become war crimes as well.”

Stephen Rapp (AFP Photo/Armin Weigel)Stephen Rapp (AFP Photo/Armin Weigel)

Rapp said that Syrian partners have obtained more than 200,000 pages of documents which are now being analyzed in a special location that the US helped establish in Europe.

“We’re working with Syrian groups, educating them, training them in how to find this information, identifying it, and measuring shell holes, and determining what direction the shells came from, other things like that ” Rapp said.

Rapp acknowledged the hurdles surrounding a possible criminal case, including reservations from Russia. In the meantime, the accumulation of evidence will go on.

“Our preference is to work with Syrians, with people in the region, with international players and work toward establishing some kind of hybrid, or mixed court,” he said. “That will take time, [but] it could be begun even before there was an end to the conflict.”


Tuesday, September 17

16:50 GMT: In response to Russia’s criticism of the recent report on the Aug.21 chemical weapon attack, the UN says it is “indisputable” and “thoroughly objective”. 

“The findings in that report are indisputable,” UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters. “They speak for themselves and this was a thoroughly objective report on that specific incident.”

16:42 GMT: NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says military options should remain“on the table” in negotiations with Syria.

Rasmussen said he supports the recent US-Russian agreement under which the Assad regime says it will give up its chemical weapons arsenal.

“I would expect the Syrian regime to fully comply with the demands of the international community and in the case of non-compliance we will need a very firm international response,” NATO chief said after meeting British Prime Minister David Cameron in London.

Rasmussen stressed that it is “crucial that the UN Security Council expeditiously adopts a firm resolution that can constitute the framework for a swift, secure and verifiable elimination of all chemical weapons in Syria”

“I do believe that the credible threat of military action was the reason why diplomacy got a chance and I think in order to keep momentum in the diplomatic and political process the military option should still be on the table,” he told reporters.

12:47 GMT: The chief UN chemical weapons inspector Ake Sellstrom says his experts will return to Syria “within weeks” to complete the investigation that was interrupted by August 21 attack in Damascus suburb. The team will evaluate “allegations of chemical weapons use from both sides, but perhaps mainly from the Syrian government’s side.”

Sellstrom said he does not see a need for more investigations of the August 21 attacks, but if the team“receives any additional information it will be included next time we report,” he added.

12:30 GMT: President Assad thanked Russia for helping Syria confront a “savage attack”, AFP reported.

12:25 GMT: Syrian government says it is sure the UN will not vote for the resolution on Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, regulating the use of military force on behalf of the council, AFP reported citing Faisal Mekdad, the deputy foreign minister of Syria.

“I think it’s a lie that Western countries use. We think this will never be used. There is no justification for that,” Mekdad said.

21:53 GMT: Syria has handed over new evidence to Russia that the chemical weapons were used by the armed opposition, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov told RIA Novosti“That is really true. Just now we were given evidence. We need to analyze it.”

21:33 GMT: Russian deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov stated that Russia is disappointed that the UN inspectors’ findings are “politicized” and “biased” in nature, adding that without the complete picture of what is happening in Syria, the conclusions can only be described as one-sided.

“We were disappointed to say the least, with the approach adopted by the UN and the UN inspectors, who were in Syria, which was very selective and incomplete, without regard to the circumstances, and was compiled without the collection of materials in the other three sites,” Ryabkov said.

20:55 GMT: In response to a question from a journalist on whether the chemical weapons deal gives Syrian President Bashar Assad job security, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said that any government in place would be in charge of seeing it to the end.

“Any individual, any government that is in place, whether that’s a transitional government, whatever it may be, would be in charge of implementing this. And that is the body that would work through this,” she said.

20:40 GMT: The draft UN Security Council resolution on chemical weapons in Syria was presented at the meeting of the five permanent UN members, RIA Novosti cited a UN source as saying. “France, Great Britain and the United States introduced a draft resolution today at a meeting of the five in New York,” the source said, adding that Russia and China will be studying the resolution.

20:36 GMT: Russian deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov stated that the first round of talks with Syrian foreign minister Walid Moualem in Damascus was constructive. There are hopes for more positive discussions on Wednesday, Ryabkov said.

19:39 GMT: Syria’s army has confirmed that its military helicopter, which was shot down by Turkish forces on September 16, violated the neighboring country’s air space.

The helicopter was on a reconnaissance mission, inspecting the infiltration of terrorists across the border, and mistakenly entered Turkish airspace, the military said in a statement released by Syria’s SANA news agency.

The harsh reaction from Turkish side – particularly, the fact that the helicopter, not tasked with any fighting mission, was downed as it headed back to Syria – reveals the real intentions of Erdogan’s government, which is seeking escalation at the Syrian border, the statement added.

18:50 GMT: Russia urges the interested parties not to hurry with throwing unsubstantiated accusations of chemical weapons use against the Syrian government of Bashar Assad, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said.

“Simplistic and groundless accusations against the Syrian authorities, which, in fact, remove all responsibility from the opposition, are childish and inappropriate,” he stressed. “As it’s thorough and, more importantly, professional establishment of cases of chemical weapons use in Syria, for which the fresh UN inspectors’ report stands for.”

18:43 GMT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has held a phone conversation with UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, discussing the details of the US-Russia deal, which calls for the Syrian government’s chemical arsenal to be placed under international supervision and subsequently destroyed.

“We hope that our British partners would get seriously involved in the implementation” of the Syrian chemical weapons accord, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said.

18:00 GMT: The UNSC resolution on Syrian chemical weapons should be binding and guarantee that the chemical arsenal will be destroyed in accordance with the agreement reached between the US and Russia in Geneva, Ban Ki-moon said.

17:09 GMT: The UN report on the Syrian chemical attack on August 21 does not show that Assad forces used sarin gas, the UN Secretary General said. The statement came in response to Western countries, which said the report proves the chemical weapon attack was perpetrated by government forces.

“If you read the report, you will understand that there are no conclusions on where those rockets were fired from,” Ban said.

16:36 GMT: The United States, Russia, Britain, France and China are expected to meet in New York to discuss a draft resolution on destroying Syria’s chemical arsenal based on a US-Russian agreement, Reuters reports citing a US official.

“Today, the P5 members of the UN Security Council (US, UK, France, Russia, China) will meet to discuss the joint P3 (US, UK, France) draft Security Council Resolution on Syria’s chemical weapons program,” Erin Pelton, spokeswoman for the US mission to the UN, said in an email.

16:34 GMT: While Russia’s deputy foreign minister is negotiating with the Syrian foreign minister, Walid Moualem, there are media reports emerging saying that the Syrian government passed its allies evidence that proves that the rebels were behind the attack in Ghouta on August 21.

However, RT’s Maria Finoshina, who is currently at the meeting, says there are no details about the report.

14:41 GMT: Russian deputy foreign minister, Sergey Ryabkov, will arrive in the Syrian capital Damascus on Tuesday to hold talks with the country’s foreign minister, Walid Moualem, Russia’s Foreign Ministry told RT.

14:18 GMT: The implementation of the US-Russia deal on chemical weapons in Syria has topped the agenda of the Moscow meeting between the Russian President’s plenipotentiary for Middle East issues, Mikhail Bogdanov, and the Syrian ambassador to the country, Riyadh Haddad.

The officials also shared the view that a political settlement to the crisis in the Middle eastern state must be reached as soon as possible based on the Geneva Communique, which calls for a peace conference on Syria, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Monday, September 16


19:06 GMT: Russia expects the draft UNSC resolution on Syrian chemical weapons, which is now being prepared by France, Britain and the US, will be based on agreements reached at the meeting between Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry.

“I hope, this draft resolution will be based on what was agreed in Geneva and will not contain elements they [France, Britain and the US] sometimes introduce in public statements,” Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said.

18:21 GMT: The inspection team concluded that the munitions linked to one of the impact sites, called Site 1 in the report, matched types of the Soviet-made M14 artillery rocket, “with either an original or improvised warhead.” The UN experts suggested that based on the “orientation and impact craters” and other damage in the area, the rockets were fired from an unspecified area to the northwest.

18:36 GMT: After the presentation of the UN report, Samantha Power, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, said that she was convinced, based on the technical details from the inspectors, the weapons belonged to forces loyal to President Assad’s regime.

“Now the mandate of the UN chemical weapons team was, as you well know, not to investigate capability. But the technical details of the UN report make clear that only the regime could have carried out this large-scale chemical weapons attack,
” Power told reporters at a news conference.

16:23 GMT: The UN Secretary General said the conclusions drawn in the report are “overwhelming and indisputable”.
“The facts speak for themselves,” he added.

Ban called the attack in Ghouta “the most significant confirmed use of chemical weapons against civilians since Saddam Hussein used them in Halabja in 1988.”

15:35 GMT: Turkish warplanes have shot down a Syrian helicopter after it crossed 2 km into Turkish air space, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Bulent Arinc, has admitted.

“It was continuously warned by our air defense but as the violation continued, it fell on Syrian soil at 2:25 pm [1125 GMT], having been hit by missiles from our planes,” he told assembled journalists.

Arinc said that the fate of the pilots was unclear. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based NGO, claimed that one of the men has been captured by anti-Assad rebels.

12:50 GMT: The head of the UN panel on war crimes in Syria claims that 14 cases of chemical attacks are currently being investigated.

12:40 GMT: The US, UK and France are pushing for more aid to the Syrian rebels, while also pressing President Assad to deliver on his promise of handing the chemical weapons arsenal over to international hands.

But they still argue that no end to the conflict is in sight, unless Assad leaves.

08:44 GMT: France, Britain and the US will press for a strong UN Security Council resolution on Syrian chemical weapons, the French president’s office says. They want the document to include detailed and binding dates for the planned dismantling of the stockpile.

01:23 GMT: A Russian newspaper Kommersant has published a response from Rep. Steve Israel to President Vladimir Putin’s editorial in the New York Times last week that stirred a lot of controversy among US officials while generally getting support among the American public.

In his letter Israel says that if diplomacy fails the US should act to prevent the spread of chemical weapons “without boots on the ground and in a limited, focused and swift way.” He argues that “Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons repeatedly” and that “we don’t want Syria’s chemical weapons to fall into the wrong hands -including some elements of the rebel forces in Syria.”

In regards to Putin’s comment on American exceptionalism, Israel wrote:

“If your leaders are serious about truly creating a regimen to control and contain chemical weapons in Syria under international supervision in a transparent, verifiable and effective way, then we will be able to add this to the latest example of exceptional achievements partnered by our two nations.”

Sunday, September 15

19:28 GMT: On Monday, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will present a report by the UN team on the chemical weapons in Syria.

Ban earlier revealed the report will give “overwhelming” confirmation that arms of mass destruction were used in an attack near Damascus on August 21.

“Therefore, I’m sure that there will be surely the process of accountability when everything is over,” he said.

However, the UN team is not expected to say who was responsible for the attack as it was only tasked to either confirm or deny the use of chemical agents.

19:15 GMT: Iran has information that it’s the rebels, not the government forces, who used chemical weapon in Syria, according to Iran’s new Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“The chemical weapons are still in the possession of extremists and terrorists in Syria, which threatens not only Syria,” Zariff told Lebanese TV channel, Al-Mayadin.

Iran condemns the use of weapons of mass destruction – no matter, who resorted to using it and who suffered from it, the Foreign Minister added.

19:02 GMT: French President Francois Hollande has said military action against the Assad regime in Syria is still an option. France insists the UNSC resolution on Syria should include sanctions in case Damascus failed to hand over it chemical weapons to international control. However, Hollande did not specify what sanctions.

“There should be the possibility of using military force, otherwise the resolution will not have power,”Hollande said.

Speaking on French prime-time television, he said resolution could be voted by the end of the week.

13:10 GMT: Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed the country’s hope that the Russian-US deal for bringing Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal under international control would result in its “complete destruction”, Reuters reports.

“We hope the understandings reached between the United States and Russia regarding the Syrian chemical weapons will yield results,” the PM said, speaking at a ceremony to commemorate the Israeli soldiers killed in the 1973 Middle East war.

“These understandings will be judged by their result – the complete destruction of all of the chemical weapons stockpiles that the Syrian regime has used against its own people,” Netanyahu added.

12:26 GMT: The Arab League welcomed Saturday’s agreement between the US and Russia to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile by mid-2014 in exchange for military non-intervention, AFP reports.

07:27 GMT: Syrian opposition group National Coaltion of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces demanded that the international community forced the Syrian Army to stop using its air superiority, after Damascus agreed to dispose of its chemical weapons stockpile.

“The prohibition of chemical weapons, the use of which has left more than 1,400 civilians dead, [should] be extended to the use of ballistic missiles and aircraft against urban areas,” the coalition said in a statement.

07:00 GMT: Iran said the deal between Russia and the US for the removal of Syria’s chemical arsenal was a sign of “rationality” in American behavior, Iranian ISNA news agency quotes.

Ali Larijani, a speaker at the Iranian parliament, spoke at a Saturday news conference, saying that a US strike would only result in larger regional conflict and would constitute a breach of itnernational law, and that the US has realised this.

“We are hopeful that American politicians have some rationality so they avoid extremist behavior, and the events of the last few days and the decisions that have been taken indicate this rationality,” he said.

Iran's Parliament speaker Ali Larijani.(Reuters / Faisal Mahmood)Iran’s Parliament speaker Ali Larijani.(Reuters / Faisal Mahmood)

5:37 GMT: US Secretary of State John Kerry is to make a brief stop in Jerusalem on Sunday for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the US-Russia deal to secure Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles.

He will then travel to Paris for further discussion on Syria with his French and British counterparts Laurent Fabius and William Hague, respectively. Kerry is also scheduled to meet with Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Saud Al Faisal, while in Paris.

04:53 GMT: China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has welcomed the deal between Russia and the United States concerning the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, AFP reports.

“The Chinese side welcomes the general agreement between the US and Russia. This agreement will enable tensions in Syria to be eased,” he said during the visit of his French counterpart Laurent Fabius.

The French FM, who arrived to Beijing Sunday morning, called this “a significant step forward”, adding that “we must move forward on the basis of this general agreement.”

Saturday, September 14

21:03 GMT: Syria has welcomed the agreement reached in Geneva between the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his US counterpart John Kerry.  In a statement by the Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi, Damascus has assured the implementation of the deal  as the “sole exit” from the crisis, expressing Syria’s welcome of the ”credible international initiatives, first and foremost the Geneva 2 conference.”

20:30 GMT: The Syrian National Coalition has appointed a new interim Prime Minister. The main Western-supported opposition alliance has named Ahmad Saleh Touma, a dentist and a political activist, to be their leader during a meeting in Istanbul.  Touma is the second politician to fill the leader’s post after Ghassan Hitto resigned in July.

“Syria will be the republic of humans where there will be no place for killers and criminals,”
 Touma said shortly after his appointment.

20:12 GMT:
 NATO has welcomed the breakthrough in negotiations on Syria, praising the diplomatic effort of the US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.

“This is an important step towards the goal of ensuring the swift, secure and verifiable elimination of Syria’s stocks of chemical weapons. Full and unreserved Syrian compliance is now key,” Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.

19:58 GMT: In its first reaction to a deal struck between John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, Iran – the main ally of the Syrian government said that Washington now has no excuse to attack Syria.

“The new situation means in fact that any pretext for the United States and certain countries to engage in military action against Syria has been removed,”
 Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister said.

19:35 GMT: US Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have criticized Russian-American agreement on the Syrian chemical weapons calling it a start down a “diplomatic blind alley,”reports Reuters.

The senior lawmakers said in a statement that the deal reached between Lavrov and Kerry in Geneva will afford Syria’s Assad months to “delay and deceive” while more people die in the Syrian war.

It requires a willful suspension of disbelief to see this agreement as anything other than the start of a diplomatic blind alley, and the Obama administration is being led into it by Bashar Assad and Vladimir Putin,” the statement reads.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham and U.S. Senator John McCain.(Reuters / Mike Theiler)U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham and U.S. Senator John McCain.(Reuters / Mike Theiler)

18:40 GMT: The UN has confirmed receiving the documents that Syria submitted for joining the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The Convention will enter into force for the Syrian Arab Republic on the 30th day following the date of deposit of this instrument of accession, namely on 14 October 2013,” the UN press office said in a statement, Reuters cites.

18:00 GMT: The European Union said Saturday it welcomed the Russian-US deal to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles and offered to help in implementing the agreement.

“I welcome the agreement reached today between the United States and the Russian Federation to ensure the swift and secure destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons and programme,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.

16:10 GMT: US President Barack Obama has said he welcomes progress reached between Moscow and Washington on Syrian chemical weapons. However, if diplomacy fails the US remains prepared to act. 

15:55 GMT: Fidel Castro, the former president of Cuba, has applauded a Russian-led proposal to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons. The former leader wrote “the intelligent Russian initiative” meant “the risk that the conflict explodes with its lamentable consequences seems to have diminished.” 

The US and Russia reached an agreement Saturday at talks in Geneva to implement the plan.

15:49 GMT: US military has not made any changes to force posture following the American-Russian agreement on Syria, the Pentagon says as cited by Reuters.

The credible threat of military force has been key to driving diplomatic progress, and it’s important that the Assad regime lives up to its obligations under the framework agreement,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement.

15:01 GMT: There are 45 facilities in Syria that develop or store chemical weapons,believe US experts according to the French newspaper Le Figaro.

“Most likely, there are 45 facilities associated with the chemical weapons’ program “, the newspaper quoted an unnamed US official. The official added that the US and Russia agree on the fact that the stockpile of chemical weapons in Syria is estimated at about one million tons.

14:46 GMT: A representative of the Syrian top-brass has dismissed as groundless earlier statements by the head of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) regarding the alleged moving of part of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal to neighboring Iraq and Lebanon.

This is an absolutely groundless lie,” a senior member of the Armed forces told RIA Novosti.

13:23 GMT:

Have spoken to Secretary Kerry. UK welcomes US-Russia agreement on #Syriachemical weapons. Urgent work on implementation now to take place

— William Hague (@WilliamJHague) September 14, 2013


13:06 GMT: The head of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has accused the government of President Bashar Assad of moving part of its chemical weapons to neighboring Iraq and Lebanon over the last few days in a bit to avoid detection by international inspectors.

Damascus did not immediately reply to the accusations.

FSA chief General Selim Idriss earlier in the day refused a US-Russian deal to place its chemical weapons arsenal under international control so as to avert the potential of a Western strike against the country.

“The Russian-American initiative does not concern us. It only seeks to gain time,” Idriss said.

“We completely ignore this initiative and will continue to fight to bring down the regime,”
 he told a press conference Saturday in the Turkish city of Istanbul.

Idris considers the US-Russia plan as a blow to rebel forces, who have been battling for two-and-a-half-years to topple the Assad government.

12:57 GMT: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has promised his full support in implementing the Geneva agreement reached Saturday by Russia and the US on eliminating Syrian chemical weapons.

12:42 GMT: France has welcomed the deal between Russia and the United States on destroying Syria’s chemical weapons.

The draft agreement reached in Geneva about eliminating the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons is an important step forward,” Reuters reported French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius as saying in a statement.

11:43 GMT: The President of Syria’s Supreme Military Opposition has said the Russian initiative on the Assad government’s chemical weapons will not solve the conflict that has raged for two years.

10:41 GMT: The US is ready for military action if diplomacy fails on Syria, President Obama said.

Friday, September 13

20:50 GMT: The United States has accepted that Russia will block any efforts at the UN Security Council to authorize military action against the Syrian government, senior White House officials conceded Friday, AFP reports.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that a UN report on a chemical weapons attack that occurred in a Damascus suburb will chip away at Moscow’s claim rebel forces were responsible. They admitted, however, that the new findings set to be published Monday will do little to persuade the Kremlin that military action is the right course.

The officials maintain the US still has the option of acting unilaterally or cobbling together a coalition if the Russian backed initiative to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control falls through. They further said Western powers would beef up a draft resolution against Syria with tougher sanctions, but not military action,in the hope that Moscow will drop its veto.

20:40 GMT: The United States and Russia will enter their third day of negotiations on ending Syria’s chemical weapons program, a US official said. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his US counterpart John Kerry will join negotiators before holding a joint press conference later on Saturday.

“This morning’s meeting has started,” Reuters cites the US official as saying.

Both sides view the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles as a necessary precursor to finding a political solution in a country that has embroiled in civil war for over two years.  

22:14 GMT: Republican Senator John McCain said he would love to write a response to Vladimir Putin’s recent Op-Ed in the New York Times and his spokesman, Brian Rogers, confirmed that McCain will submit a piece in the Russian newspaper Pravda.

“We would be only pleased to publish a story penned by such a prominent politician as John McCain,”Dmitry Sudakov, the English editor of Pravda, told Foreign Policy.

McCain’s submission in both Russian and English is expected by next Wednesday at the latest.

18:45 GMT: France, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan have agreed to strengthen the Syrian opposition in its battle with President Assad.The Elysee said in a statement Friday that President Hollande and the ministers from the three countries“agreed on the need to strengthen international support for the democratic opposition.”18:30 GMT: President Barak Obama said Friday, after a meeting in the White House with the emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, that he hopes talks on the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons will be successful but he will insist that any deal is “verifiable and enforceable”.18:15 GMT: The US State Department said Friday it is confident that the UN report on the 21 August chemical weapons attack in Damascus will say that they were used but is unlikely to assign blame.18:10 GMT: The Russian Foreign Ministry announced Friday that US Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi agreed at a meeting in Geneva that only a political solution will end the civil war in Syria.The ministry also said that they had agreed to meet in New York at the end of the month for more talks on Syria on the sidelines of UN General Assembly meeting.18:00 GMT: The French, British and US foreign ministers will meet for lunch in Paris Monday to discuss the Syrian crisis, France’s foreign ministry announced Friday.17:35 GMT: Speaking by phone to AP from the Netherlands the head of the UN chemical weapons inspection team, Ake Sellstrom, says he has completed his report on Syria and will deliver it to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon over the weekend.“It’s done, but when to present it is up to the Secretary General,” he said.17:30 GMT: A UN report will show that chemical weapons were used on August 21 in Syria, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Friday.Ban’s comments at the UN Development Forum in New York said that the inspectors’ report will be released “as soon as possible.”“I believe that the report will be an overwhelming, overwhelming report that chemical weapons (were) used, even though I cannot publicly say at this time before I receive this report,” he said.A UN team has been analyzing evidence gathered in Syria about the attack, which the US government says was launched by Assad’s forces and killed 1,400 people.However, the chief UN weapons inspector, after confirming to AP that the report was completed, declined to comment on its conclusions.Ban said he was “very much troubled” by divisions over Syria among members of the US Security Council, which has been unable to adopt any resolutions on Syria during the now 2 1/2-year civil war.He said that if the deadlock at the UN continues, it will represent a “failure.” Ban said that Syrian President Bashar Assad had “committed many crimes against humanity” and should be held accountable when the conflict is over.16:50 GMT: Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, argued against premature forecasts and speculation about what the international community would do to resolve the Syrian crisis.“Any arguments outside of the current dialogue in Geneva between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry should not have the right to exist,” Peskov said. “The stakes are so high, so ghostly is the glimmer of hope, that it is better to refrain from commenting on the modalities of possible proposals.”
16:48 GMT: Egypt supports neither of the parties in the Syrian conflict, Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy told RIA Novosti news agency, but instead is calling for a political solution to the crisis within the framework of the so-called “Geneva-2” peace conference.”We want to achieve a political solution to this problem based on the principles of Geneva-2 that will preserve the integrity of the Syrian state,” Fahmy said.“We have no authority, and we do not seek to support any particular government there, it is a Syrian decision. We want to preserve Syria, a state that is threatened with break-up. We have supported the Syrian revolution in the sense of the aspirations of the Syrians to a better, free and democratic life. We have condemned many steps of the Syrian government, but we are against the division of Syria, its division on religious principles. There is no military solution to the Syrian crisis.”Fahmy added: “The former president [Mohamed Morsi] said that he wanted to start a holy war in Syria. We’re not going to wage it. This is an irresponsible statement that does not correspond with our national interests.”

16:20 GMT: Al-Qaeda linked rebels in Syria have declared an offensive against two other insurgent factions in the Syrian opposition. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have accused each other of attacks and collaborating with the government. Analysts have reported an inclease in clashes between rebels in recent months mainly over territory and the spoils of war.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.(Reuters / Brendan McDermid)United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.(Reuters / Brendan McDermid)

16:15 GMT: UN chief Ban Ki Moon has said that Syrian President Assad has committed many crimes against humanity.

Referring to a UN report into the use of chemical weapons he said, “I believe that the report will be an overwhelming report that chemical weapons (were) used even though I cannot publicly say at this time before i receive the report.”

16:00 GMT: The UN has said that Syria’s application to the chemical weapons treaty is not complete. The UN has asked Syria for more information in order to join the chemical weapons convention. The UN declined to say what information was actually missing.

15:50 GMT: A new report from the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria has documented the brutal tactics used by the Syrian government are using against civilians, including electrocution, rape and getting medical professionals to torture hospital detainees. It also fingers the rebels for using brutal methods but to a lesser degree.

15:45 GMT: Human Rights Watch accused Syrian government forces and pro-regime militias Friday of carrying out summary executions in predominately Sunni Muslim towns along the Mediterranean coast in May in which at least 248 people died.

15:40 GMT: Around 3,300 Syrians have arrived in Italy by boat over recent weeks the UN refugee agency said Friday. Many have come from troubled Egypt, where they at first found a haven from violence and bloodshed.

15:33 GMT: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said that Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad had requested technical assistance in joining the group.

12:11 GMT: The UN has asked Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry to help a team investigating human rights violations get into Syria.

“The Human Rights Council has repeatedly called upon the Syrian authorities to grant access to the members of the commission of inquiry,” wrote U.N. Human Rights Council president, Remigiusz Henczel, in a letter to the two diplomats, adding that previous requests had fallen on deaf ears.


12:00 GMT: Unnamed US officials talking to the Wall Street Journal allege that a secret Syrian military outfit has been dividing the countries chemical weapons arsenal between up to 50 different sites. The top secret group, known as Unit 450, has been moving stocks around for months in the hope of avoiding detection, in the event of US airstrikes.

09:14 GMT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his US counterpart John Kerry have agreed to meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on September 28 to further discuss kick starting the stalled Geneva II peace conference on Syria.

Speaking alongside Kerry and Lavrov in Geneva on Friday, Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria, said ongoing work to hand to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control was a necessary step for convening the Geneva II conference.

Russian Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov (R) speaks on September 13, 2013 during a press conference with United Nations-Arab League special envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi (C) and US Secretary of State John Kerry after their high-stakes talks on Syria's chemical weapons at the UN headquarters in Geneva. (AFP Photo/Larry Downing)Russian Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov (R) speaks on September 13, 2013 during a press conference with United Nations-Arab League special envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi (C) and US Secretary of State John Kerry after their high-stakes talks on Syria’s chemical weapons at the UN headquarters in Geneva. (AFP Photo/Larry Downing)

“We look forward to working on the chemical weapons [issue] in Syria. This is extremely important in itself, and it is important for us in trying to successfully organize the Geneva II conference,” Brahimi said.

Lavrov and Kerry both expressed hopes that talks on Syria’s chemical weapons would revive efforts at coming to a political settlement in the country.

08:45 GMT: Iran has backed Russia’s initiative to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control and the decision by Syria to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention

“We would like to support all these efforts … the Russian initiative and Syria’s decision to join the convention focused on chemical weapons,” Reuters cites President Hassan Rouhani as saying at a summit of a regional security group led by China and Russia.

08:25 GMT: China’s Foreign Ministry welcomed on Friday a decision by Syria to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Damascus has promised to submit all of the documents to the United Nations needed to join the treaty over the next several days. A month after signing the convention, Syria says it will hand over all the information regarding its chemical weapons stockpiles to relevant international bodies.

Syrian President Bashar Assad said his decision to place the country’s chemical weapons under international control was prompted by Russia, and a US threat to attack the country following an August 21 attack in a Damascus suburb did not “influence the decision.”

08:16 GMT: Secretary of State John Kerry said talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Thursday night regarding the ongoing crisis in Syria were “constructive.”

Kerry, who met with Lavrov and Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria, kicked off the first round of negotiations regarding Russia’s initiative to see Syria’s chemical weapons brought under international control.

Lavrov, who also met with his Kazakh counterpart Erlan Idrisov in Astana on Thursday, said “I’m positive there is a chance for peace in Syria, and it cannot be missed.”

“It is necessary ensure Syria’s adherence to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which would entail a declaration of Syria’s chemical weapons storage sites and the disclosure of its chemical [weapons] program,”
 he said.

Russia remains opposed to efforts within the UN Security Council to force Syria to hand over its chemical weapons arsenal under the threat of force.

07:12 GMT: Russia welcomes Syria’s decision to join the Chemical Weapons Convention, which is aimed at prohibiting chemical weapons use, President Putin said.

Putin said, “I think we should welcome this decision of the Syrian leadership and I would like to hope that this will be an important step in dealing with the crisis.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) at the 13th Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Bishkek. (RIA Novosti/Michael Klimentyev)Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) at the 13th Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Bishkek. (RIA Novosti/Michael Klimentyev)

Russia’s President stated, “This confirms the serious intentions of the Syrian partners.” The leader underlined, “We consider intolerable any foreign military intervention into this country without the UN Security Council sanctions.” He also stressed, “The efforts that have been recently made have permitted to decrease the direct threat of a military operation.”

Thursday, September 12

23:15 GMT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, will meet in Geneva for talks on Syria on Friday, a diplomatic source told RIA Novosti.

20:14 GMT: After the UN accepted documents from Damascus concerning Syria joining the Chemical Weapons Convention, Syria has “legally speaking” become a full member of the treaty, Syrian UN Ambassador Bashar Jaafari said.

“Legally speaking Syria has become, starting today, a full member of the convention,” Ambassador Bashar Jaafari told reporters in New York.

18:30 GMT: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has repeated the view of the Pentagon that Russia is “isolated and alone” in denying Assad has used chemical weapons.

17:55 GMT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said now that Syria has agreed to Moscow’s proposal to put its chemical weapons stockpiles under international control, there is a chance to convene the peace talks on Syria, Geneva-2, that will help end the ongoing conflict.

We proceed from the premise that the solution to this problem makes any military strike against Syria unnecessary,” he said at a media conference in Geneva, ahead of talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

17:50 GMT: The US says there is no change in its position that Bashar al-Assad absolutely must not be part of Syria’s political future, despite Washington’s willingness to work with Assad on chemical weapons removal.

17:45 GMT: The US says it accepts that the removal of chemical weapons from Syria is complicated and will “take some time”.

17:40 GMT: The US has said that it will not allow Syria to use accession to the anti-chemical weapons treaty as a stalling tactic and that the option of military strikes is still on the table.

16:30 GMT: A spokesman for the UN has said that they have received documents from Damascus concerning Syria joining the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Convention came into force on 29 April 1997 and is signed by 189 countries.

“In the past few hours we have received a document from the government of Syria that is being translated, which is to be an accession document concerning the Chemical Weapons Convention,” UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters

16:00 GMT: The US has said that Russia is “isolated and alone” in blaming the Syrian rebels for the Chemical attack in a Damascus suburb that killed almost 1500 people on the August 21.

“Russia is isolated and alone in blaming the opposition. We’ve seen no credible reporting that the opposition has used chemical weapons in Syria,” Pentagon press secretary George Little told reporters Thursday.

15:30 GMT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has arrived in Geneva for talks with Secretary of State John Kerry. The US President, Barak Obama, has said he hopes the outcome will be positive, according to a statement issued by the White House Thursday.

14:30 GMT: Syria will start passing information on its chemical weapons to international organizations a month after it signs the Chemical Weapons Convention, President Bashar Assad said in an interviewwith Rossiya-24 TV channel.

It does not mean though that mean the country “will sign the documents, fulfill the obligations and that’s it,” Assad said. “It’s a bilateral process aimed, first of all, at making the US stop pursuing its policy of threats against Syria.”  He added that a lot would also depend on the extent to which Russia’s proposal is accepted.

No country in the Middle East, including Israel, should possess weapons of mass destruction, Assad said, adding that removing WMD would protect the region and the world from devastating and expensive wars in future.

11:30 GMT: The European parliament has passed a resolution welcoming the proposal for Syria to put its chemical weapons arsenal under international control. The document urges a similar UN resolution to be passed in order to ensure Syria’s compliance with its pledge to cooperate with the international community.  

11:15 GMT: Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague says any Syrian chemical weapons deal must identify all such arms and ensure they don’t fall into the wrong hands, according to Reuters.

11:00 GMT: Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan says he does not believe that Damascus is sincere in its pledge to surrender Syria’s chemical weapons to international control.

Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (AFP Photo)Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (AFP Photo)

The Assad regime has not lived up to any of its pledges, it has won time for new massacres and continues to do so,” Erdogan said in a speech, as cited by Reuters. “We are doubtful that the promises regarding chemical weapons will be met.”

10:48 GMT: Aleksey Pushkov, the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian Duma, said the US’s participation in international military campaigns has only been making the country weaker.

All of the recent wars have made the US weaker, not stronger. You don’t have to be Einstein to understand: a new war will once again hit America itself,” Pushkov tweeted.

10:40 GMT: Prior to his meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry due later in the day, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov welcomed Syria’s readiness to place its chemical weapons under international control.

I am certain that there’s a chance for peace in Syria,” said Lavrov at a meeting with students in Kazakhstan. He added the military intervention would only further destabilize Syria and the region, according to Interfax news agency.

The US has called on Syria to quickly declare the size and scope of its chemical weapons.

It’s doable, but difficult,” a US official was cited by AFP.

7:40 GMT: The primary western-backed Syrian rebel leadership council has rejected a Russian initiative to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control, the group said in a video statement.

“We announce our definitive rejection of the Russian initiative to place chemical weapons under international custody,” Reuters cites Salim Idriss, head of the rebel Supreme Military Council, as saying in a video posted online late on Wednesday.

On Monday, Russia called on Syria to turn over its chemical weapons for destruction and sign on to the Chemical Weapons Convention so as to avert Western military intervention in the country. The Syrian leadership agreed to the Russian initiative later that evening.

06:21 GMT: Russian and US chemical weapons experts are set to participate in negotiations between Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry. The talks are to focus on the chemical weapons crisis in Syria.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov(L) and US Secretary of State John Kerry (AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards)Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov(L) and US Secretary of State John Kerry (AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards)

05:34 GMT: A senior Israeli official has said that Russia’s plan to remove chemical weapons from Syria could be a solution to the conflict. Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said that the international community would need a guarantee from Moscow that “Syria is cleansed of chemical weaponry.”

“I cannot say that we have full faith, but if this Russian proposal … will really remove the chemical weaponry from Syria, first of all, and will then dismantle it … then this is a way to end this tragedy and a way to end this threat too,”
 Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Israel’s Army Radio.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad to be “stripped of its chemical weapons” on Wednesday, but stopped short of openly voicing his support of the Russian initiative. Damascus has accepted the proposal and agreed to hand over its chemical weapons stash to international control.

01:55 GMT: Over the past two weeks the CIA has started delivering weapons to the Syrian opposition, the Washington Post cites US officials and Syrian figures. Vehicles, communications equipment and advanced combat medical kits also been given to Syria by the US State Department.

The arms shipments, which include light weapons and munitions, started arriving in Syria at the time when President Obama was expected to order missile strikes against Damascus.

01:17 GMT: The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from all over the world, will result in more innocent victims and escalation of the conflict beyond Syria’s borders,President Putin wrote in the New York Times.

In a lengthy piece titled A Plea for Caution from Russia, the President reminded that the United Nations was created as a universal instrument for preventing devastating wars and that taking military action without Security Council authorization would be against international law.

“It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States,” Putin added.

Wednesday, September 11

20:32 GMT: The five permanent members of the UN Security Council have started a closed-door meeting on the situation in Syria. The meeting where the envoys are expected to discuss the French proposed resolution, it follows a gathering of representatives from Britain, France and the US earlier on Wednesday.

18:50 GMT: Russia has submitted to the UN Security Council documents providing evidence that chemical weapons were used by rebel forces, Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Aleksandr Zasypkin told Al Mayadeen channel, reports RIA Novosti.

18:41 GMT: The US Administration insists that Syrian President Assad should resign from power, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki says. She added that this “political decision” would require a dialogue between Syria’s conflicting sides.  

17:46 GMT: American arms experts are going to Geneva with US Secretary of State John Kerry, where he will meet on Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for talks on Syria, AFP reports.

The talks are expected to last for at least two days, possibly more, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a media briefing, Reuters reports.

While in Geneva, Kerry also plans to meet with UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

16:53 GMT: The five permanent UN Security Council members – Russia, China, Britain, France and the US – will hold a closed-door meeting to discuss France’s draft resolution on chemical weapons in Syria, a UN source told Itar-Tass.

16:20 GMT: The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has urged the US and Russia to tackle the obstacles to delivering aid in Syria. US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are to meet in Geneva on Thursday to discuss Russia’s plan to transfer Syrian chemical weapons to international control.

Both Syrian government forces and rebels are preventing medical assistance from reaching the sick and wounded, Reuters cited Red Cross president Peter Maurer as saying.

We need political and diplomatic support for independent humanitarian action,” Maurer told journalists.

14:53 GMT: Russia has formally handed over a plan for “establishing international control of chemical weapons in Syria” to the United States, Russia’s Interfax and Itar-Tass news agencies reported, citing sources.

“We are hoping to discuss it in Geneva,”
 a source in the Russian delegation said.

14:10 GMT: Israeli president Shimon Peres said he trusts the Russian and American presidents regarding a deal to reach a peaceful solution to the Syrian chemical weapon problem.

I know both President Obama and President Putin, and I am convinced that if an agreement is reached it will be reliable, explicit and significant,” he said at an Israeli Navy graduation ceremony, reports The Times of Israel.

Diplomacy is always preferable to war but the main issue at present is integrity and in particular the integrity of the #Syrian regime.

— PresidentPeres (@PresidentPeres) September 11, 2013

12:03 GMT: NATO supports efforts to control and eliminate Syrian chemical weapons, an official in the alliance told Itar-Tass, commenting on Russia’s proposal to Damascus to put its chemical weapons arsenal under international control.

“Efforts to ensure the control of and ultimate destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons are positive and we support the UN in this area; however, the details of these proposals are not yet clear,” the source said. “The international community has a responsibility to make sure that the longstanding norm and practice against the use of chemical weapons is maintained, and violators are held accountable.

11:23 GMT: Syria’s National Coordination Committee (NCC) has suggested placing chemical weapons under Russia’s control, the rebel Syrian organization said in a statement.

The NCC said that it has submitted its proposal to the Russian ambassador to Beirut as well as to the foreign ministries of Egypt and Iraq.  The organization – which is at odds over a number of key issues with another opposition group, the Syrian National Council (SNC) – also called for the so-called “Geneva-2” peace talks on Syria to begin immediately.

07:46 GMT: Russia has handed the evidence over to the UN Security Council, the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian Duma, Aleksey Pushkov, stressed.

“We have the basis to think not only the Syrian government has them [chemical weapons]…but we suspect that those weapons have been used by the rebels several times,” he indicated.

01:43 GMT: Addressing the nation, the US president has asked Congress to postpone a vote on military action in Syria as diplomacy is pursued to put chemical weapons beyond the regime’s reach, but called on the military to maintain pressure on the Syrian government.

Tuesday, September 10

20:19 GMT: A total of 33 countries have now signed a joint statement on Syria condemning the chemical attack on August 21 and blaming the Syrian government for it, the White House said. Eight more countries voiced their support of the “efforts undertaken by the United States and other countries to reinforce the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.”

20:07 GMT: US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva to discuss Syria’s chemical weapons on Thursday, US officials told Reuters. Lavrov is expected to share Russia’s proposals on securing Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles under international control for review by the US administration.

19:14 GMT: The Russian Foreign Ministry said that Secretary of State John Kerry and Minister Sergey Lavrov have agreed on a possible bilateral meeting soon to discuss initiative on Syria’s chemical weapons.

“The two have agreed to work together, including the possibility of holding a bilateral meeting in the coming days to discuss concrete ways of fulfilling the initiative of putting Syrian chemical weapons under international control,” the Foreign Ministry said following a phone call between Lavrov and Kerry.

Russia’s proposal to remove Syrian chemical weapons is expected to be formally sent to the US later on Tuesday, John Kerry said after the call.

19:03 GMT: UN Security Council closed-door meeting called by Russia has been canceled, according to the Council’s current president Australia’s Ambassador to the UN, Gary Quinlan.

Following withdrawal of the request for consultations, Security Council meeting scheduled for 4pm will not proceed #OzPrez #UNSC

— Gary Quinlan (@AustraliaUN) September 10, 2013

18:45 GMT: President Obama has reportedly called on the US Senate to postpone the vote on possible military actions in Syria until the diplomatic solution is discussed, according Politico newspaper which cited a source from the closed-door meeting.

18:43 GMT: John Kerry said that any Syria weapons deal must be struck in a binding UN Security Council resolution.

17:20 GMT: Barack Obama and Francois Hollande have refused to rule out the possibility of a military strike against Syria, following a telephone conversation.

“The heads of state highlighted their preference for a diplomatic solution but they also underlined the importance of keeping all options open,” said a statement from Hollande’s press office.

17:15 GMT: Moscow has called an emergency closed-door consultations at the UN Security Council to discuss its chemical weapon removal plan. The round-table is expected to begin at 8 pm GMT Tuesday.

16:45 GMT: Moscow will propose a draft statement by the chairman of the UN Security Council, supporting the initiative to transfer Syria’s chemical weapons to international control, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

The issue was discussed during a phone conversation between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his French counterpart, Laurent Fabius.

“[Lavrov] said that Russia, on its part, is submitting a draft statement for the UN Security Council’s chairman, welcoming the… initiative and calling on the UN Secretary General, the general director of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and all the interested parties to make efforts to facilitate the implementation of this proposal,” the ministry’s statement said.

During the call, Lavrov said described as “unacceptable” a French proposal to adopt a Security Council resolution blaming President Assad’s government for the chemical weapons attack.

15:32 GMT: With regards to the size of a US strike on Syria, Sec. Kerry told lawmakers in the House that the White House wants a limited strike that would pale in comparison to other recent military operations. “It’s not Iraq, it’s not Iran, it’s not a years’ war,” he said.

“I have said that this will be meaningful, it will be serious, the Assad regime will feel it,” Kerry said, “…but compared to Iraq, Kosovo, Libya—it’s small. It is not any of those things.”

15:28 GMT: Britain and France, along with the US, are expected to table a resolution on Syrian chemical weapons to the UN Security Council later Tuesday, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said.

“If this is a serious proposal then we should act accordingly and I think a UN Security Council resolution is a good idea,” Cameron said.

14:47 GMT: The US is waiting to see a real and verifiable plan from Russia for removing chemical weapons from Syria, but it won’t wait long and won’t allow President Bashar Assad to use it as a delaying tactic, Secretary of State John Kerry said.

“We’re waiting for that proposal. But we’re not waiting for long,” Kerry told a hearing of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee. “President Obama will take a hard look at it. But it has to be swift, it has to be real, it has to be verifiable. It can’t be a delaying tactic.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks as US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (R) watches while testifying on Syria to the House Armed Services Committee on September 10, 2013 in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.(AFP Photo / Mandel Ngan) US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks as US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (R) watches while testifying on Syria to the House Armed Services Committee on September 10, 2013 in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.(AFP Photo / Mandel Ngan)

14:46 GMT: Answering to how America should proceed with regards to a strike on Syria following news of a possible compromise brokered by Russia, Sec. Kerry said, “The use of force should absolutely not be off the table.”

14:38 GMT: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told representatives in Congress that a US strike on Syria, as outlined by President Barack Obama, would degrade the Assad regime’s chemical weapons capabilities without jeopardizing America’s security interests any further.

Hagel also said that authorizing the use of military force would not open the door for an indefinite operation overseas. “We will not send America’s sons and daughters to fight another country’s civil war,” Hagel said. “We are not contemplating any kind of open ended intervention or an operation involving American ground troops. A political solution created by the Syrian people is the only way to ultimately end the violence in Syria.”

14:25 GMT: US Secretary of State John Kerry is speaking before a House panel in an attempt to garner congressional approval for a strike against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. “Thirty-one countries support US holding Syria accountable,” Kerry told lawmakers. Should the US not launch a military strike, he cautioned, America’s “ambivalence” and “weakness” would not be projected onto its adversaries.

The risk of not acting is much greater than the risk of acting,” Kerry said.

14:02 GMT: The US Senate may not vote this week on the authorization for military strike against Syria, congressional aides said. Congressional leaders also said they want to wait for the public’s response to President Barack Obama’s address to the American people, which is expected Tuesday night. The House Democratic lawmaker said that White House aides told House Democrats that diplomacy, rather than military action, is now the priority on Syria.

14:01 GMT: As international attention switched to the discussions between Russian and Syria, activists said that Syrian government warplanes have bombed rebellious districts of Damascus for the first time since the August 21 poison gas attack.

Rebels said the air strikes were a demonstration that the government now believed the West had lost its nerve.

“By sending the planes back, the regime is sending the message that it no longer feels international pressure,” Reuters reported Wasim Ahmad, a rebel activist in the Mouadamiya district of Damascus, as saying.

13:37 GMT: Syria said it has signed “major contracts” with Iran that would cover its needs for food, medical and other supplies, state television in Damascus reported.

11:45 GMT: British Prime Minister David Cameron says serious questions need to be answered about the Russian proposal for Syrian chemical weapons handover, his spokesman said. Meanwhile Foreign Secretary William Hague said the UK has to “make sure that this is not just a device to fool the world.”

11:35 GMT: The Arab League supports Russia’s initiative on putting over Syrian chemical weapons stockpile under international control, the organization’s chief Nabil el-Araby said, according to AFP. He told reporters in Cairo the League will “soon issue a statement announcing its support officially” of the Russian plan.

11:05 GMT: Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama discussed the idea of putting Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal under international control at the time of the G20 summit, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov told Reuters, without giving further details.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (L) welcomes US President Barack Obama at the start of the G20 summit on September 5, 2013 in Saint Petersburg.(AFP Photo / Yuri Kadobnov)Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (L) welcomes US President Barack Obama at the start of the G20 summit on September 5, 2013 in Saint Petersburg.(AFP Photo / Yuri Kadobnov)

09:53 GMT: Iran now has strong proof of terrorists using chemical weapons in August’s attack, the country’s deputy foreign minister said in Moscow today.

“As far as chemical weapons use by terrorist groups is concerned, we, together with Russia, have strong proof… some of it is obvious. For example, in December of last year we received information that two capsules containing sarin gas are being transported inside Syria by terrorists.”

09:49 GMT: Despite news that France is on-board with the decision to place Syria’s chemical arsenal under international control, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said at a press conference on Tuesday that this does not exclude the possibility of a military strike on the country, RIA Novosti says.

“Following Russia’s lead, we saw our determination to act supplemented by a new path. We will follow this path, but we do not wish for it to become an evasive maneuver. Therefore, all options remain on the table.”

09:35 GMT: Tehran says it is certain that the Syrian regime has not participated in August’s chemical attack. This comes from Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Hosseyn Amir Abdollahian’s statement in Moscow.

“We believe the Syrian government has not used chemical weapons [and that] Damascus will give the utmost consideration to any political decision,” the Deputy FM said.

09:30 GMT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has announced that Russia, together with Syria, is working on a concrete plan for putting its chemical arsenal under control.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a meeting with his Libyan counterpart Mohammed Abdulaziz in Moscow, September 10, 2013.(Reuters / Maxim Shemetov)Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a meeting with his Libyan counterpart Mohammed Abdulaziz in Moscow, September 10, 2013.(Reuters / Maxim Shemetov)

09:25 GMT: According to AFP, France is to propose its own Syria resolution at the UN Security Council on Tuesday.

09:20 GMT: China promises to back Russia’s proposal for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons arsenal over for international control – Reuters reports.

GMT 07:50: Members of a UN human rights conference in Geneva were presented accounts of international experts, Syrian public figures and Russian news reporters covering the Syrian conflict, which back Russia’s opposition to the US plans for a military intervention in Syria, the Russian Foreign Ministry reports.

The speakers argued that the suspected sarin gas attack near Damascus on August 21 was likely a provocation of the rebel forces and that a military action against the President Bashar Assad government will likely result in civilian casualties and a humanitarian catastrophe affecting the entire region.

Syrian opposition's Shaam News Network shows bodies of children and adults laying on the ground as Syrian rebels claim they were killed in a toxic gas attack by pro-government forces in eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21, 2013.(AFP Photo / Shaam News Network)Syrian opposition’s Shaam News Network shows bodies of children and adults laying on the ground as Syrian rebels claim they were killed in a toxic gas attack by pro-government forces in eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21, 2013.(AFP Photo / Shaam News Network)

Evidence for the Russian case, including numerous eyewitness reports and results of investigations of the chemical weapon incident by activists, were handed over to a UN commission of experts probing the Syrian crisis, the ministry said.

Monday, September 9

23:14 GMT: Hardline Republican Senator John McCain said the US should get on board with Russia’s proposal for Syria to hand over control of its chemical weapons to the international community.

“If there is an international [agreement], if you have the guidelines, the requirements, the reporting, the dates— all of that guided by a very detailed resolution to the UN Security Council, I think that you can’t say no to it even though I’m very dubious that this is a real proposal,”
 McCain told Time magazine. “I think it’s just a stalling tactic but to reject it out of hand is obviously not something that you can do.”

22:19 GMT: President Obama said he is willing to “absolutely” put on pause the limited strike option on Syria if President Bashar Assad accepts Russia’s proposal to hand over control of the country’s chemical weapons to the international community.

U.S. President Barack Obama participates in an interview with Chris Wallace (R), anchor of "Fox News Sunday", in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington September 9, 2013.(Reuters / Pete Souza)U.S. President Barack Obama participates in an interview with Chris Wallace (R), anchor of “Fox News Sunday”, in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington September 9, 2013.(Reuters / Pete Souza)

“Let’s see if we can come up with language that avoids a strike but accomplishes our key goals to make sure that these chemical weapons are not used,” the US president said during an ABC News interview with Diane Sawyer – one of many he gave on Monday.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that a test vote on a resolution to strike Syria will be postponed.

20:50 GMT: American public opinion is mounting against US military strikes against Syria, according to a new poll by Pew Research and USA Today.

In the past week, Pew has found in its surveys the contingent of those polled that are opposed to missile strikes has gone up 15 percent in a week to 63 percent. The number who favor action in Syria has basically held consistent in that time period at 28 percent, from 29 percent last week. The number of undecideds on the matter has gone down to 9 percent from 23 percent.

Seventy percent of self-identified Republicans, 66 percent of independents and 53 percent of Democrats are against US aggression in Syria. The number of those opposed to strikes has gone up among all three political identities.

AFP Photo / Joan JenningsAFP Photo / Joan Jennings

The new poll was conducted Sept. 4-8, among 1,506 adults nationwide.

19:52 GMT: Chemical weapons being handed over under international control is “worthy of close scrutiny” but acceptable “under at least three conditions,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement. The conditions include a quick handover of control over the weapons and permission to further destroy them. He also said the operation should only take place after a UN Security Council resolution. Fabius added that Assad will face consequences if he fails to comply.

19:48 GMT: In response to Russia’s proposal, Syria’s  top rebel commander has accused President Bashar Assad’s regime and Moscow of deceit.

“We call for strikes and we warn the international community that this [Assad] regime tells lies, and the liar [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is its teacher. Putin is the biggest liar,” Free Syrian Army chief Selim Idriss told Al Jazeera. 

“The regime wants to buy time to save itself,” Idriss added. He also warned “decision makers” against falling into Assad’s “trap of deceit and dishonesty.”

18:44 GMT: Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she is taking Russia’s proposal to Syria very seriously, adding that a Syrian chemical arms handover would be an “important” step.

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks about the situation in Syria after meeting with US President Barack Obama at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC on September 9, 2013.(AFP Photo / Saul Loeb)Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks about the situation in Syria after meeting with US President Barack Obama at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC on September 9, 2013.(AFP Photo / Saul Loeb)

“This is about protecting the Syrian people… and our friends in the regions… If the regime immediately surrendered its stockpiles to international control… that would be an important step. But this cannot be another excuse for delay or obstruction,” she said.

However, Clinton then said that she supports President Barack Obama’s attempts to seek military action against Syria and called on Congress to approve it.

18:41 GMT: The US Senate has set a procedural vote to take place on Wednesday on whether to authorize President Barack Obama to use “limited military action” against Syria.

17:59 GMT: Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken echoed Harf’s statement indicating that the US will take a “hard look” at the Russian proposal.

“We haven’t had a chance to look at it yet, we haven’t had a chance to talk to the Russians about it,” he said. “We would welcome Assad giving up his chemical weapons…that’s the whole unfortunately the track record to date…doesn’t give you a lot of confidence…that said we want to look hard at what the Russians have proposed.”

17:54 GMT: State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the US has “serious and deep skepticism” about the statements from Russia and Syria.

“If we see any indication that this latest statement has any merit, the US will look at it,” Harf said. But“everything we have seen from the Assad regime points in the opposite direction.”

“We’ll have to take a hard look at the Russian statement … so we understand exactly what the Russians are proposing here,” State Department spokeswoman said. “Clearly we have some serious skepticism.”

17:46 GMT: A new poll conducted by AP, September 6-8, shows that a majority of Americans oppose a US strike on Syria. Most of those who took part in the survey said they are sure that even a limited attack that President Obama is seeking approval for will drag the US into a long-term commitment of military force in Syria.

At the same time, some 20 percent of respondents said they believe that US military involvement would prevent other countries from using their own weapons of mass destruction in the future.

17:44 GMT: Cyprus said it will not take part in any kind of strike on Syria, if it comes to that.

“It’s clear that in no case will it become a launch pad of military operations, or a target of attacks,” Cypriot government spokesman Christos Stylianides said.

A Typhoon jet of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) lands at a British base at Akrotiri, near the city of Limassol August 29, 2013.(Reuters / Yiannis Nisiotis)A Typhoon jet of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) lands at a British base at Akrotiri, near the city of Limassol August 29, 2013.(Reuters / Yiannis Nisiotis)

At the same time, Nicosia would be ready to offer assistance to third-country nationals evacuated from the Middle East as a significant number of countries asked Cyprus to host its nationals and offer humanitarian aid if necessary.

17:12 GMT: Fourteen more countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kosovo, which is not universally recognized as an independent state, have backed a statement condemning the Assad regime for an alleged chemical weapons attack on August 21 and called for a strong international response to bring the Syrian government to account, the White House said.

In total, 25 countries are now supporting the statement as the US is seeking an international coalition for military strikes against Syria.

12:27 GMT: Freed after being kidnapped in Syria, Belgian teacher and writer, Pierre Piccinin da Prata, has said that the Syrian regime did not use chemical weapons. “This is my moral duty to tell [sic] about this,” he said in an interview with the RTL-TV channel. “This is not Assad’s government who used sarin gas or any other combat gas in [the] Damascus area. We are sure about this after we accidently heard a conversation between rebels.”

12:08 GMT: US Secretary of State John Kerry has said that the Syrian President “could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community” to avoid a military strike on the country.

Following Kerry’s statement, a US State Department spokeswoman clarified that Secretary Kerry was making a rhetorical argument about the impossibility and unlikelihood of Assad turning over chemical weapons”.

“His (Kerry’s) point was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons, otherwise he would have done so long ago. That’s why the world faces this moment,” the spokeswoman said.

09:10 GMT: During a media briefing in London with US Secretary of State John Kerry, the UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said that the UK and the US will continue working with all sides, including Russia, to overcome the crisis in Syria.

Hague also noted that UK’s objectives and efforts on solving Syria conflict remain “closely aligned” with US.

Sunday, September 8

17:35 GMT: Israel has deployed its Iron Dome defense shield west of Jerusalem, AFP reports. A military spokeswoman declined to comment on the move, saying only that “defense systems are deployed in accordance with situation assessments.

17:01 GMT: Russia has evacuated 70 more people from Syria, the Emergencies Ministry told RIA Novosti news agency. The plane, which supposedly departed from Latakia, had Russian nationals and other CIS citizens on board.

16:58 GMT: German intelligence has concluded that Bashar Assad may not be personally behind the chemical attack on Damascus’s outskirts, Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported.

Intercepted radio messages reportedly revealed that Syrian commanders had been asking the country’s leader to allow them to use chemical weapons for the last four-and-a-half months. Based on the messages, German intelligence believes the attack might have been initiated at a lower level than the presidential palace.

16:19 GMT: President Barack Obama’s address to the nation on the Syrian crisis is scheduled for 9:00pm EST Tuesday evening (01:00am GMT Wednesday morning).

14:58 GMT: Syrian President Assad has talked to the American media for the first time in two years. CBS’ Charlie Rose spoke to the President; however, the full interview will only be available on Monday on the Face the Nation TV-show.

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad denied to CBS being behind chemical attack.

14:11GMT: Both the soldiers of President Bashar Assad and the rebels troops agree that the expected US-led strikes against Syria won’t change the situation in the country, ITV News international editor, Bill Neely, wrote in his article for the Guardian paper.

“The Americans can shoot their missiles but they’ll get nowhere. Our real enemy is over there, on the ground – Al-Qaeda!” a veteran governmental soldier said.

“How can it be that America is going to fight us, on the side of Al-Qaeda?”
a young Syrian army commander wondered. “How can America be against a secular country and for Islamists, who kill their prisoners and dump their bodies in a well?”

While one of the rebels stressed that “the Americans will scratch the surface, hit 5 per cent of the regime’s power and save face. That won’t save us from another attack.”

Syrian rebels clash with government forces (unseen) at a military airport in Syria's northeastern city of Deir Ezzor on July 1, 2013. (AFP Photo / Karam Jamal)

13:28 GMT: The British people oppose any military attack on Syria even if they were presented with undeniable evidence that the government of Syrian president Bashar Assad used sarin gas against its own citizens, an IMC Research opinion poll for the Sunday Telegraph revealed.

A large proportion of voters (46 per cent) said they wouldn’t want the country’s MPs to stage a second Commons vote on joining the US-led military operation in Syria, if UN weapons inspectors confirm that the August 21 attack involved chemical weapons.

The poll also revealed that 47 per cent believe that the British role in the Syrian crisis should be limited to “providing aid to refugees,” with only 19 per cent speaking up for military involvement.

13:24 GMT: With tensions mounting in the Middle East and the number of Syrian refugees reaching 2 million, UNICEF continues to provide urgent life-saving supplies to children inside Syria and in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, the organization’s press release said.

12:45 GMT: The US authorities have supplied the Japanese government with evidence aimed at convincing the country’s cabinet that forces of Syrian president, Bashar Assad, used chemical weapons near Damascus on August 21.

The source in the government has confirmed to Kyodo news agency that the materials were received, but didn’t disclose the specific content of the evidence.

12:28 GMT: A Russian Emergencies Ministry plane has arrived in the Syrian port city of Latakia to pick up Russians and CIS citizens wanting to leave the country in anticipation of the US strikes, RIA-Novosti news agency reports.

A team of rescuers and psychologists is onboard to assist the passengers during the flight. Emergencies Ministry spokeswoman, Irina Rossius said.

All the people, who desire to leave, are already in the Latakia airport, with their numbers currently being determined.

Il-76.(RIA Novosti / Vladimir Baranov)

12:11 GMT: The spread of chemical arms is “a bigger issue than Syria,” Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague said, calling for a tough response to the alleged use of poison gas in the Middle Eastern country.

“I do believe very strongly that the world must stand up against the use of chemical weapons,” he told the BBC. “The risks of not doing so in my view are greater than the risks of doing so. Allowing the spread of use of chemical weapons in the 21st century is an evil that we have to stand up to, one way or another.”

US Secretary of State, John Kerry, is to arrive in London on Sunday for talks with Hague as part of his European tour to gain support for the strikes against the targets of Bashar Assad’s government.

The British parliament has rejected joining the US-led military operation in Syria, with the Foreign Secretary saying that, despite him fully backing the American plan, the government is “not planning” another vote on the issue “unless the circumstances change dramatically.”

11:47 GMT: The Brazilian state and its citizens will always support the Syrian people, Brazil’s defense minister Humberto De Azevedo Viana Filho said on his visit to Istanbul, adding that his country stands for a peaceful solution to the crisis.

“Brazil is always on the side of dialogue as a solution to the problems,” the minister is cited as saying by Turkey’s Anadolu news agency. “However, our country is definitely against the use of chemical weapons, which is accepted as an international crime in Brazil. From the very beginning, we have had a clear stance towards such countries as Syria which has killed its own people.”

08:58 GMT:Turkey spotted “movements” on the Syrian-Turkish border. Turkish jets have been put on standby in case there are any borer violations, IHA reports.

The Turkish Sabah newspaper added that the “have the permission to open fire in case of hostile movement”. Earlier, a loud explosion was heard on the border.

01:44 GMT: The US Senate Intelligence Committee has released a compilation of 13 videos presented to the committee as proof of the alleged chemical attack in a Damascus suburb on August 21.

The committee said in a statement: “Each of these 13 videos explicitly claim to show victims of a chemical or poison gas attack. At the request of Chairman Feinstein, these videos were selected by the Open Source Center to depict a representative range of YouTube content posted regarding the reported 21 August chemical weapons (CW) attacks in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria. All of the videos were posted on YouTube by pro-Syrian opposition users. With one exception, all 13 videos were posted by a pro-opposition Internet news channel that consistently posts user-created videos concerning the Syrian conflict. The news channel does not primarily generate content, but instead re-posts content originally posted by others.”

Saturday, September 7

19:48 GMT: Over 200 protesters have gathered at the White House before marching to Capitol Hill in a demonstration opposing possible US military strikes against Syria.

The protest is one of several planned rallies taking place in cities across America. A larger demonstration is scheduled to take place in Washington on Monday.

Congressional officials report that by a margin of 100 to one, people are telling the elected representatives from their district that they should vote ‘no’ on the war resolution,” Sarah Sloan of the ANSWER Coalition, which organized the protest, said in a statement. “Because of the deep split inside the political establishment, what the people do can make a huge difference.”

People march from the White House to the US Capitol in Washington against US intervention in Syria on September 7, 2013. (AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm)

19:34 GMT: The US has no plans to evacuate all of its employees from Beirut, Lebanon ahead of a possible military strike against Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry said.

The Syrian crisis does affect Lebanon. But we do not want it to spill over in the region,” Kerry said after a meeting with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

Kerry acknowledged, however, that that the number of American employees in Lebanon has been reduced “for security reasons.”

18:01 GMT: Hundreds of pilgrims have arrived in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican to join Pope Francis in prayer for Syria. The head of the Catholic Church has invited people of all faiths to join in a day of fasting and prayer to call for an end to the Syrian conflict.

During this week’s G20 summit, the Pope called on world leaders to seek peace in Syria through diplomatic means and to lay aside the “futile pursuit” of a military solution.

Pope Francis (2ndL under the awning) presides over the mass vigil for prayer for peace in Syria in Saint Peter square at the Vatican, on September 7 2013. (AFP Photo/Andreas Solaro)Pope Francis (2ndL under the awning) presides over the mass vigil for prayer for peace in Syria in Saint Peter square at the Vatican, on September 7 2013. (AFP Photo/Andreas Solaro)

17:50 GMT: US President Barack Obama has made no decisions about waiting for a UN weapons inspectors’ report on chemical arms used in Syria, and he is keeping all of his options open, US Secretary of State John Kerry said after meeting with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

17:40 GMT:
 French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius believes a military strike against Syria is the key to a political solution to the country’s conflict.

Fabius added that all the members of the UN Security Council should denounce the Syrian government and support the use of force.

The statement came after the French FM’s meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry, who agreed with his counterpart, adding that “[Syrian President Bashar] Assad must be punished.”

17:17 GMT: A rally against the expected US-led military operation in Syria is continuing for a second day in front of the American Embassy in al-Metn’s Awkar neighborhood, east of the Lebanese capital of Beirut.

“Syria, the land of Arabism and resilience, is in danger. But the country does not want protection as it safeguarded Arabs for a long time. It needs Arabs to stand by its side instead of calling on foreign countries to destroy it,” Naharnet quoted activist Ali Taleb as saying.

“The American Spring will not be achieved through Damascus, and certainly not through Beirut,”
 he said.

 protester holds a poster burning on which is depicted former US president George W. Bush taking off a mask of current President Barack Obama during a demonstration of supporters of Syrian regime near the US embassy, east of Beirut against a possible US military strike on Syria on September 7, 2013. (AFP Photo)protester holds a poster burning on which is depicted former US president George W. Bush taking off a mask of current President Barack Obama during a demonstration of supporters of Syrian regime near the US embassy, east of Beirut against a possible US military strike on Syria on September 7, 2013. (AFP Photo)
Lebanese supporters of Syrian regime, shout slogans during a demonstration near the US embassy, east of Beirut against a possible US military strike on Syria on September 7, 2013. (AFP Photo)Lebanese supporters of Syrian regime, shout slogans during a demonstration near the US embassy, east of Beirut against a possible US military strike on Syria on September 7, 2013. (AFP Photo)

14:31 GMT: Lebanese authorities have intensified security measures across the country “in the wake of tensions in the Middle East and possible U.S. military action against Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons,” the Lebanese Higher Defense Council told Al Arabiya.

11:44 GMT: The European Union’s Catherin Ashton claims that available information is enough to constitute strong evidence of the Syrian regime’s responsibility for Augusts’ chemical attack.

11:20 GMT: President Obama said that a small military force may be needed in Syria after all, to deter future chemical weapons attacks – according to Reuters. Although he said on his weekly radio and internet address that a protracted conflict like “Iraq or Afghanistan” is not something he wants.

11:18 GMT: German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has said he will join the G20 declaration calling for military action against the Syrian regime.

11:15 GMT: According to a survey carried out by the French newspaper Figaro, two-thirds of the French (68 percent) are against international military action on Syria, regardless of what their government chooses to do.

02:52 GMT: As Congress debates Syria military strikes, the US has issued travel warnings to Americans for Lebanon and southeastern Turkey based on possible violence in those countries bordering Syria, the US State Department announced Friday. In addition, the U.S. has also ordered its diplomats to leave both countries as a precautionary measure.

“Security of our people and our facilities in the region is of utmost concern to everyone here,” State Dept. spokeswoman Marie Harf said, adding that she was not aware of any specific threats.

20:51 GMT: The UN has drawn up emergency plans for a military strike on Syria, but at the same time will continue to deliver aid to the region, UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said after her trip to Damascus, AFP reported.

“We continue to update and look at our contingency planning,” Amos stated, noting that the UN has great concern for its staff on the ground and still has “a commitment to continue our humanitarian operations.”

Valerie Amos (Reuters / Denis Balibouse)Valerie Amos (Reuters / Denis Balibouse)

20:35 GMT: US Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken, an aide close to President Obama, told NPR Friday that military action in Syria is unlikely without congressional approval. Blinken asserted that “the president has the authority to act” if Congress votes down the proposal next week, but “it’s neither his desire nor intention to use that authority absent Congress backing him.”

18:55 GMT: Syrian President Bashar Assad barely used any of his chemical weapons stockpile in the alleged attack near Damascus on August 21, according to the US Ambassador to the United Nations.

“We assess that although Assad used more chemical weapons on August 21 than he had before, he has barely put a dent in his enormous stockpile,” Samantha Power said at the Center for American Progress think-tank in Washington.

“We have exhausted the alternatives” to military action, she said, adding that Assad counted on Russia’s support.

17:23 GMT:  Friday, September 6th, a so-called Tweet storm rages on the popular networking service for awareness on #OpSyria911. Organizers of the storm, Anonymous hacktivist group, urged opponents of a military intervention to “call, fax, email, and write a letter to your representatives and voice your disdain for any military actions intruded on the Syrian people.”

15:59 GMT: The Leaders and Representatives of Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States of America issued a joint statement on the sidelines of the Group of 20 Nations Leader’s Meeting in Saint Petersburg, Russia regarding the crisis in Syria.

“The international norm against the use of chemical weapons is longstanding and universal.  The use of chemical weapons anywhere diminishes the security of people everywhere.  Left unchallenged, it increases the risk of further use and proliferation of these weapons,”
 the joint statement issued by the White House read.

“We condemn in the strongest terms the horrific chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus on August 21st that claimed the lives of so many men, women, and children.  The evidence clearly points to the Syrian government being responsible for the attack, which is part of a pattern of chemical weapons use by the regime.

We call for a strong international response to this grave violation of the world’s rules and conscience that will send a clear message that this kind of atrocity can never be repeated. Those who perpetrated these crimes must be held accountable.”

The family photo during the G20 summit on September 6, 2013 in Saint Petersburg (AFP Photo)The family photo during the G20 summit on September 6, 2013 in Saint Petersburg (AFP Photo)

The statement went on the show its support for a UN Security Council resolution, but “recognized” the Council had remained paralyzed for two years.

The statement further condemned “in the strongest terms” human rights violations in Syria on all sides.

15:52 GMT: France says that any military action against Syria would only entail military targets so as to avoid civilian casualties. President Francois Hollande said all G20 states has condemned the use of chemical weapons and agreed they were deployed in Syria. He further warned that if the UN Security Council could not agree on a response to the attack, a coalition must be created to respond. He did say, however, that France would wait on conclusions from UN inspectors investigating the August 21 attack in a Damascus suburb before deciding to act.

“We shall await the report of the inspectors just as we will await (US) Congress,” he told a news conference after a summit of G20 nations in St. Petersburg, in reference to US President Barack Obama’s decision to ask for Congressional approval before launching a strike.

15:38 GMT: Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday almost all of the leaders at the G20 summit in St. Petersburg accepted that an operation needed to be carried out against Syria in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack in  a Damascus Suburb on August 21.

“Almost all the leaders who have attended the summit are closely following the massacre the Syrian regime carried out on its people and the leaders have expressed that an operation is extremely necessary against Damascus,” Reuters cites Erdogan as saying.

15:20 GMT: The Russian Foreign Ministry has asked the world to consider claims made by Mother Agnes Mariam el-Salib – mother superior of St. James Monastery in Qara, Syria – who told RT there is proof the footage of the alleged chemical attack in Syria was fabricated.

Mother Agnes Mariam el-SalibMother Agnes Mariam el-Salib

“I maintain that the whole affair was a frame-up. It had been staged and prepared in advance with the goal of framing the Syrian government as the perpetrator,” she said.

“The key evidence is that Reuters made these files public at 6.05 in the morning. The chemical attack is said to have been launched between 3 and 5 o’clock in the morning in Guta. How is it even possible to collect a dozen different pieces of footage, get more than 200 kids and 300 young people together in one place, give them first aid and interview them on camera, and all that in less than three hours? Is that realistic at all? As someone who works in the news industry, you know how long all of it would take.”

15:15: GMT: US President Barack Obama refused to say directly what he would do if Congress doesn’t approve Syria strikes when asked the question at the press conference during the G20 summit.

However he said that “given Security Council paralysis on this issue, if we are serious about upholding a ban on chemical weapons use, then an international response is required, and that will not come through Security Council action.”

15:07 GMT: The alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria was “carried out by rebels as a provocation”to create the possibility for a foreign intervention, Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters at a press conference during the final day of the G20 summit.

While Russia, China, India, Indonesia, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and Italy are among the major world’s economies which oppose the intervention, only Turkey, Canada, Saudi Arabia and France join the US in its call for military action in the war-torn country, adding that the UK Prime Minister’s position was not supported by his citizens.

In case of intervention, Putin stressed that Russia will help Syria as “we are already helping, we send arms, we cooperate in the economic sphere, we hope to expand our cooperation in the humanitarian sphere, which includes sending humanitarian aid to support those people – the civilians – who have found themselves in a very dire situation in this country.”

13:54 GMT: The discussion of the Syrian issue at the G20 summit in St Petersburg has not decreased the possibility of a military operation against the republic, says British Prime Minister David Cameron.  He said that although the talks were very helpful, the summit was never about making a decision on the matter.

British Prime Minister David Cameron (AFP Photo / Yuri Kadobnov)British Prime Minister David Cameron (AFP Photo / Yuri Kadobnov)

If the United Nations Security Council fails to agree on a resolution authorizing military intervention in the Syrian conflict, action without its approval can’t be ruled out either, Cameron said.

The UK, along with several other members of the group, agreed to seek free access for humanitarian aid to Syria through the UN, he told a media conference at the end of the gathering.

13:42 GMT: Russia President Vladimir Putin and US leader Barack Obama have discussed Syrian crisis on the sidelines of G20 summit in St Petersburg, says Russian presidential aid Yuri Ushakov. However, “there remains a difference in opinions” following the meeting, Ushakov said. Putin and Obama have agreed to continue discussing the settlement for the Syrian crisis on the level of their foreign ministers.

13:03 GMT: A military strike on Syria will put an end to all the efforts made by the UN-Arab League envoy on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, to politically resolve the conflict, agreed the participates of the G20 summit breakfast meeting, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

“I cannot say that this was the prevailing opinion, but many responsible states are coming to a very clear understanding that the use of force, bypassing the UN Security Council, will put an end to all efforts for a political resolution and carrying out the Geneva-2 peace conference made by Lakhdar Brahimi,” Lavrov said.

“Our common conclusion is to do everything possible to prevent the military scenario in Syria,” Lavrov added. “There is still time for this.”

The US did not participate, while Canada, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Senegal, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, Turkey, France and Russia were present at the meeting. 

12:40 GMT: The Turkish Prime Minster Tayyip Erdogan has said that almost all leaders at the G20 summit in St Petersburg accept the need for a military operation against Syria.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a working meeting of the G20 summit of heads of state and government, heads of invited states and international organizations in Saint Petersburg (AFP Photo)Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a working meeting of the G20 summit of heads of state and government, heads of invited states and international organizations in Saint Petersburg (AFP Photo)12:00 GMT: The U.S. has ordered its diplomats to leave Lebanon as Congress debates Syria military strikes, in a move that will be interpreted that the possibility of a military strikes has moved a step closer.The US State Department has ordered nonessential U.S. diplomats and family members to leave Lebanon due to security concerns. They have also urged US citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon because of current safety and security concerns.“The Department of State drew down non-emergency personnel and family members from Embassy Beirut due to threats to U.S. Mission facilities and personnel,” a statement on the Beirut embassy’s website said.11:55 GMT: The Geneva II peace conference is under threat in the current situation, said UN-Arab League envoy on Syria Lakhdar Brahimi during the G20 summit held in St. Petersburg, Russia.11:50 GMT: The Syrian government has announced that it is offering a bounty to anyone who captures a“non-Syrian terrorist”, or helps to apprehend one, state television said. A bounty of 500,000 Syrian pounds (roughly $4,000) will be offered for capture, while 200,000 Syrian pounds (about $1,500) goes to anyone who gives information regarding terrorist locations.The statement said the identities of those who provided information would be kept secret and their“protection ensured”. Concerning Syrian rebels who informed on their comrades, state television added, that they would be granted amnesty and “their affairs will be settled.” 
11:29 GMT: Moscow has warned Washington against staging attacks on Syria’s chemical weapons depots.“With particular concern, we perceive the fact that among possible targets for attacks are objects of military infrastructure securing the safety of Syrian chemical weapons arsenals,” according to a statement in the comment of the Department of Information and Media relations of the Russian Foreign Ministry, issued on Friday. 
“In this regard, we would like to warn the US government and its allies from inflicting any assaults on chemical facilities and adjacent territories,” the document says.11:22 GMT: The crisis in Syria should be resolved through political means and not a military strike, Chinese President Xi Jinping told his US counterpart Barack Obama during the G20 summit in St. Petersburg in Russia.
Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the first working session of the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg (AFP Photo)Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the first working session of the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg (AFP Photo)”A political solution is the only right way out for the Syrian crisis, and a military strike cannot solve the problem from the root,” Xinhua news agency quoted Xi as saying. “We expect certain countries to have a second thought before action,” he added.
10:50 GMT: The UN nuclear watchdog has confirmed receipt of a request from Russia to estimate the impact if a missile were to hit a small Syrian reactor that contains radioactive uranium.“I can confirm that the IAEA has received a formal request from the Russian Federation. The agency is considering the questions raised,” IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said in an email to Reuters.A military strike on Syria could have catastrophic effects if the research reactor near Damascus was struck “by design or by chance,” Russia said in a statement earlier this week.
10:32 GMT: British scientists found traces of sarin gas in soil and fabric samples collected in Syria, the UK Ministry of Defence has confirmed earlier reports, BBC states.
9:43 GMT: EU defense ministers have agreed that embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons in an attack in a Damascus suburb on August 21, reports AFP.Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama told G20 leaders in St. Petersburg that the US was “confident” Assad’s forces had used chemical weapons. Obama urged the G20 leaders to support the international ban on chemical weapons and authorize the use of military force against Syria.
7:55 GMT: A Russian parliamentary delegation will not travel to Washington to meet with Congress to discuss Syria, announced Russian lawmaker and State Duma representative, Sergey Naryshkin. 
03:48 GMT: US President Barack Obama instructed the Pentagon to expand the list of potential Syria targets as a reaction to new intelligence that Syrian President Bashar Assad has been moving troops and chemical weapons equipment, military officials told the The New York Times. This means that the original list of at least 50 major sites will be further expanded.
US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Jewel Samad) US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Jewel Samad)

03:20 GMT: The US State Department responded to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s remarks that US Secretary of State John Kerry “lied” about the influence of Al-Qaeda in Syria, saying that it is“preposterous” and a mischaracterization of what America’s top diplomat actually said.

Kerry is “not losing sleep after such a preposterous comment that was based on an inaccurate quote and was completely mischaracterized,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington.

Putin made his remarks on Wednesday, reportedly referring to the Secretary of State’s testimony before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee a day earlier, where Kerry said that Al-Qaeda’s presence within the Syrian opposition has not been increasing.

02:00 GMT: US Navy destroyers in the Mediterranean are “fully ready” to launch cruise missiles into Syria as part of a US military campaign that would not involve “extraordinary” monetary costs, a top admiral said Thursday.

Greenert, a chief naval operations officer who focuses on preparedness of Navy forces, also seemed to confirm the rough estimate made by US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, when he told Congress that a US campaign in Syria would likely cost“tens of millions” of dollars.

“The numbers are nagging but they’re not extraordinary at this point,” Greenert said at an event held by the conservative think-tank American Enterprise Institute, though defense budget analysts say Hagel’s figure is a low estimate.

Friday, September 6 

20:51 GMT: The UN has drawn up emergency plans for a military strike on Syria, but at the same time will continue to deliver aid to the region, UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said after her trip to Damascus, AFP reported.

“We continue to update and look at our contingency planning,” Amos stated, noting that the UN has great concern for its staff on the ground and still has “a commitment to continue our humanitarian operations.”

Billboard with portrait of Assad and the text ...

Billboard with portrait of Assad and the text God protects Syria on the old city wall of Damascus 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thursday, September 5

23:50 GMT: Pope Francis called on world leaders attending the G20 summit in Russia to seek peace in Syria through diplomatic means, laying aside the “futile pursuit” of a military solution.

In a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is hosting the G20 summit, Francis said that lopsided global interests have blocked a diplomatic course in the Syrian conflict and have led to the “senseless massacre” of innocent people.

“To the leaders present, to each and every one, I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution,”
 Francis wrote.

Pope Francis.(Reuters / Tony Gentile)Pope Francis.(Reuters / Tony Gentile)

21:00 GMT: US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said Thursday there is “no viable path forward” in the UN Security council on Syria, accusing Russian leaders of holding the council hostage to protect President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

I was present in the meeting where the UK laid down the resolution, and everything in that meeting, in word and body language, suggests that that resolution has no prospect of being adopted, by Russia in particular,” Power said. “In the wake of the flagrant shattering of the international norm against chemical weapons use, Russia continues to hold the council hostage and shirk its responsibilities, including as a party to the chemical weapons convention.”

20:45 GMT: President Obama has forgone a trip to California, instead remaining in Washington, “to work on the Syrian resolution before Congress,” the White House has announced. Obama was scheduled to speak at the AFL-CIO’s quadrennial convention in Los Angeles and attend a party fundraiser which has been postponed.

The president departed Washington Tuesday night for a trip to Sweden before heading to the G20 summit in Russia. Obama will return to the US on Friday. Both chambers of Congress are scheduled to debate US military action in Syria on Monday.

20:24 GMT: US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he is “guardedly optimistic” that the Senate will vote to authorize limited missile strikes against Syria, a Democratic aide said on Thursday, as cited by Reuters. The aide said the Senate will likely vote on President Obama’s use-of-force resolution on Wednesday, in an attempt to nullify an expected entanglement with Republicans.

Reid did not attend the meeting with Obama earlier this week in which Democrat and Republican leaders were briefed on the details of the Syrian conflict. Reid told reporters that he has been in daily contact with the president and “has all the information he needs.”

17:07 GMT: The UK has fresh evidence of use of chemical weapons in the Syrian capital, Damascus, British prime minister, David Cameron, told the BBC.

He said evidence of the Bashar Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons was “growing all the time” and UK scientists were investigating the alleged attacks on 21 August.

“We have just been looking at some samples taken from Damascus in the Porton Down laboratory in Britain which further shows the use of chemical weapons in that Damascus suburb,” Cameron said.

The PM also denied claims he has “no hand to play” over Syria after losing a vote on UK military action in Syria, saying that Britain would lead calls for more action on aid for refugees and push for fresh peace talks.

16:18 GMT: Moscow is puzzled by the Pentagon’s claims that Russia has been shipping chemical weapons or the means to develop them to the Syrian government of Bashar Assad, the head of the Kremlin’s administration, Sergey Ivanov, said.

“I’ve heard this statement, spoken in diplomatic language, I was very surprised and even shocked by it,”Ivanov is cited as saying by the ITAR-TASS news agency.

The official added that no matter how Congress votes on the use of force against Syria, the decision by the US lawmaker still won’t be “legitimate”.

Ivanov also said that Russia has boosted its naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea in order to evacuate Russian citizens from Syria in case of an attack.

15:22 GMT: Leaders of the BRICS countries expressed their concerns on Thursday that military action against Syria could damage the world economy, a spokesman for the Russian president said.

“It was noted within the BRICS dialogue that among factors that could negatively affect the global economic situation are the consequences of the eventual foreign intervention into Syrian affairs. Such consequences can have an extremely negative effect on global economy,” the spokesman said.

The BRICS association includes the emerging economies of Russia, China, India, Brazil, and South Africa.

15:15 GMT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is to hold talks with his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Moualem on September 9 in Moscow, according to Russian Foreign Ministry.

“In accordance with an agreement reached, Moscow will host talks between Russia’s Foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Syrian Arab Republic, Walid al-Moualem,” the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on its website.

The talks will focus on the comprehensive review of all aspects of the current conflict in Syria, according to the statement.

“In Moscow, we remain convinced of the need for a speedy end to the violence and suffering of the civilian population in Syria and the path of a political settlement without external military intervention avoiding the UN Security Council,” the ministry’s statement said.

14:40 GMT: Russia is not blocking the work of the UN Security Council, but “calls for all its partners for objective assessment of the situation” concerning Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said at the G20 briefing.

“Russia is attempting to call on its partners, including partners in Washington, for an objective assessment of the situation, without taking decisions before the official verdict of the UN experts working in Syria,” Peskov said.

Only after the UN experts announce their legitimate conclusion on if the chemical weapons were indeed used in Syria, “then it is necessary to sort out who was behind their use,” Peskov stressed.

“We cannot accept the evidence that, in our view, does not represent any evidence, that is far from being convincing,” Putin’s spokesman said.

13:33 GMT: Heavy clashes between Syrian government forces and militants of the Al-Qaida affiliated group, Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Nusra Front), have been going on in the mountains surrounding the UNESCO-listed Christian village in western Syria after the insurgents attacked and held it overnight, AP reports, citing the UK-based Observatory for Human Rights.

Militants reportedly left the village of Maaloula early on Thursday, with locals saying they saw them patrolling the streets on foot and in vehicles at night, as well as surrounding the village church and mosque. According to AP speaking with witnesses over the phone, the villagers fear the rebels will return.

12:34 GMT: Iran will support Syria “to the end” in the face of a possible US-led military strike, Iran’s elite Quds Force unit commander Qassem Soleimani has said.

“The aim of the United States is not to protect human rights … but to destroy the front of resistance [against Israel],” Soleimani was quoted as saying by AFP citing local media.

“We will support Syria to the end,” he added in a speech to the Iranian Assembly of Experts, without elaborating.

However, Iran’s Defense Minister, Hossein Dehqan, ruled out sending troops or weapons to Syria.

“The Syrians do not need us to provide them with weapons because they have a defensive anti-aircraft system themselves,” Dehqan was quoted as saying.

12:20 GMT: The UN inspectors will not reveal the preliminary results of the probe into alleged chemical weapons use in Syria on August 21 near Damascus until the probe is completed, Martin Nesirky, a spokesman for UN Secretary General, has said.

“There will be no disclosure of the preliminary findings. There will only be final results after all the samples are analyzed,” Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman was quoted as saying by Interfax.

European Council President Herman van Rompuy said earlier on Thursday he expected the UN Secretary General to share the tentative findings of the UN chemical weapons inspectors on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

11:48 GMT: The international community should focus on a political solution for the Syrian crisis, said the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso.

“The European Union is certain that the efforts should be aimed at a political settlement,” Barroso told reporters at the G20 briefing.

11:39 GMT: Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, slammed the US for using the alleged chemical weapons use as a “pretext” for intervention in Syria.

“In the case of Syria, the chemical attack is a pretext… The Americans try to play with words and pretend that they’ve become involved in this case for humanitarian aims,” Khamenei said, at a meeting of the Iranian Assembly of Experts.

Khamenei then warned the US would “suffer loss” in Syria, should they launch a military strike.

“I believe the Americans are making mistakes in Syria and they have felt the impact and will certainly suffer loss,” he said.

11:09 GMT: Seventy percent of Germans are against military intervention in Syria. However, 65 percent consider it a possibility, according to a survey ordered by the ZDF TV channel.

10:15 GMT:  UN special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, will push for an international conference to find a political solution to the conflict in Syria during the G20 summit.

“While the world is focused on concerns about the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria we must push even harder for the International Conference on Syria to take place in Geneva,” said Brahimi in a statement.

05:12 GMT: Russia has sent an official request to meet the US lawmakers with the aim of lobbying them on Syria. It’s after earlier speculations that Russia will send a delegation to Washington, DC.

02:52 GMT: While calling for reconciliation and denying his government used chemical weapons, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad told the Wall Street Journal if the US attacks Syria, Damascus would strike back not only at Israel, but also neighbors Jordan and Turkey if they participate in hostilities.

“Once the war starts nobody can control what will happen,” he said. “We believe that any attack against Syria will definitely result in chaos in the entire region if not beyond.”

He also said US strikes would strengthen rebel groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda rather than the moderate opposition forces the US has supported.

02:41 GMT: The Vatican will host a day of fasting and a four-hour prayer vigil Saturday in St. Peter’s Square in opposition to US military strikes in Syria, the AP reported. The Vatican has invited bishops’ conferences the world over to host local version of the vigil.

In recent speeches, tweets and remarks, Pope Francis has called for a negotiated settlement to the Syrian conflict while condemning use of chemical weapons. “War never again! Never again war!” he tweeted earlier this week.

With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons.

— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) September 3, 2013

Hagel BioGuide

Hagel BioGuide (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wednesday, September 4th 2013

23:58 GMT: Russian lawmakers have announced plans to meet with US congressional leaders to discuss Syria, according to CNN. Previous reports speculated that Russia would send a delegation to Washington but it is not clear whether they will arrive before Monday, when the Senate and House of Representatives are scheduled to debate a bill authorizing military force in Syria.

House Speaker John Boehner, however, has already declined the invitation, according to Boehner spokesman Michael Steel, who did not provide a reason.

At this particular point, my understanding has been that relations between members of Congress and the Russian parliament have been very sour,” Dick Lugar, the former head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN. “I don’t think a delegation from Russia will make any difference in terms of congressional votes. But at the same time there may be the possibility that dialogue could lead to other positive things.”

23:35 GMT: The Pentagon has issued a clarification to US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s assertion Wednesday that Russia had supplied chemical weapons to Syria.

During the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on potential use of force against Syria, Hagel alluded to Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons. When asked where they came from, Hagel said, “Well, the Russians supply them. Others are supplying them with those chemical weapons. They make some themselves.”

Pentagon spokesman George Little explained in a statement Hagel was referring to the “well-known conventional arms relationship between Syria and Russia.”

The full statement from Little:

“In a response to a member of Congress, Secretary Hagel was referring to the well-known conventional arms relationship between Syria and Russia. The Syrian regime has a decades-old largely indigenous chemical weapons program. Currently, Russia provides the Syrian regime a wide variety of military equipment and support, some of which can be modified or otherwise used to support the chemical weapons program. We have publicly and privately expressed our concern over the destabilizing impact on the Syrian conflict and the wider region of continued military shipments to the Assad regime.”

22:00 GMT: The White House praised the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for passing an authorization of military force against Syria hours after questioning top administration officials on potential strikes.

“We commend the Senate for moving swiftly and for working across party lines on behalf of our national security,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

The resolution now goes to the full Senate for debate. The bill needs 60 votes to ultimately pass.

21:53 GMT: Former Syrian Defense Minister Ali Habib has not fled the country, state television reported Wednesday.

“There is no truth to what the media has reported on the travel of former defence minister Ali Habib Mahmoud outside of Syria and he is still in his home,” Syrian state television quoted an official source as saying.

A top member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition had previously told Reuters Habib had defected to Turkey.

21:43 GMT: Probes from Khan al-Assal show chemicals used in the March 19 attack did not belong to standard Syrian army ammunition, and that the shell carrying the substance was similar to those made by a rebel fighter group, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated.

A statement released by the ministry on Wednesday particularly drew attention to the “massive stove-piping of various information aimed at placing the responsibility for the alleged chemical weapons use in Syria on Damascus, even though the results of the UN investigation have not yet been revealed.”

By such means “the way is being paved for military action” against Damascus, the ministry pointed out.

But the samples taken at the site of the March 19 attack and analyzed by Russian experts indicate that a projectile carrying the deadly nerve agent sarin was most likely fired at Khan al-Assal by the rebels, the ministry statement suggests, outlining the 100-page report handed over to the UN by Russia.

21:23 GMT: US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel insisted that any military strike on Syria for use of chemical weapons would significantly reduce President Bashar Assad’s military might.

“The president has said … this would not be a pin prick. Those were his words. This would be a significant strike that would in fact degrade his capability,” Hagel said during a hearing in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which will consider authorizing use of military force in the coming days.

Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry agreed that “likelihood is very high” Assad would use chemical weapons again should the US not use force.

Hagel added during the hearing that a limited military strike campaign in Syria would likely cost “tens of millions” of dollars.

“We have looked at the different costs, depending on the different options,” Hagel said. “It would be in the tens of millions of dollars, that kind of range.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (Alex Wong / Getty Images / AFP)

21:00 GMT: During Wednesday afternoon’s hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel suggested that the Assad regime received some of their alleged chemical weapons arsenal from Russia.

There’s no secret that the Assad regime has had chemical weapons, significant stockpiles of chemical weapons,” Hagel said.

When asked by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina) to elaborate, Hagel responded, “The Russians supply them, others are supplying them with those chemical weapons, they make some themselves.”

18:13 GMT: Rep. Brian Higgins (D-New York) questioned the United States’ potential involvement in the Syrian civil war by insisting that the US should concentrate on its domestic endeavors, not efforts abroad.

The American people are sick and tired of war,” Higgins told Secretary of State John Kerry. “It’s time to nation build — in America.”

18:07 GMT: Answering critique from Rep. Ted Deutsh (D-Florida) about America’s potential role in the Syrian civil war, Secretary of State told the committee, “The United States of America is not being the world’s policeman.”

17:23 GMT: Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters that a meeting and potentially a vote could occur as early as 2 p.m. local time, or 1800 GMT, today.

16:48 GMT: According to Reuters, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to vote later today on the draft resolution presented on Tuesday which would authorize the use of military force in Syria

16:36 GMT: Secretary of State John Kerry is again the lead witness during a Congressional hearing in Washington, this time one hosted by the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

During Wednesday afternoon testimony, Kerry said that new evidence has surfaced only hours earlier linking Assad’s regime to the August 21 attack near Damascus that the White House says killed over 1,400 people.

Meanwhile, anti-war protesters with the group Code Pink assembled during the hearing seated behind Kerry. International television cameras captured the demonstrators with symbolic “blood” on their hands.

During Tuesday’s hearing in the Senate, Code Pink co-founder Madea Benjamin was ejected from the facility during an outburst that occurred moments into the meeting.


14:58 GMT: Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized remarks made by the US Secretary of State John Kerry at the Congressional debate, saying Kerry “lied” by claiming there was no Al-Qaeda militants fighting in Syria and that the military strike against President Assad will not boost the terrorist network’s presence in the region.

“Well, he [Kerry] lies. And he knows that he lies. This is sad,” Putin remarked as he spoke to human rights activists on Wednesday, saying that the Al-Nusra Front terrorist organization, which pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda, has been at the forefront of the rebel groups fighting Assad’s forces, and that the US is well aware of that.

Speaking of Kerry’s confidence in that Assad’s forces used chemical weapons, Putin recalled former US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s rhetoric on the eve of American invasion in Iraq. It later turned out that all Powell’s arguments that Iraq had chemical weapons “did not hold water,” the Russian President stressed.

13:40 GMT: President Barack Obama said the credibility of the US Congress was on the line regarding the need to uphold a ban on chemical weapons in Syria.

“My credibility is not on the line. The international community’s credibility is on the line,” he told a news conference in Sweden. “America and Congress’s credibility is on the line, because we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important,” Obama added.

13:16 GMT: US President Barack Obama urged the international community to respond effectively to chemical weapons’ use in Syria during his statement at a press conference in Sweden.

A “real strong message” to Assad must be sent to ‘degrade’ his ability to use chemical weapons again, the President added.

Obama stated that he was not required to submit proposals for military action to Congress for approval, but also said that not doing so was no empty exercise.

10:20 GMT: Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan reiterated on Wednesday that Turkey would take part in nay international coalition against Syria but didn’t say whether that would include military action.

00:47 GMT: A new US Senate draft resolution for authorizing use of military force in Syria sets a 60-day deadline, with one 30-day extension possible, while barring ground forces.

The resolution was drafted by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman and ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee. The resolution needs 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster by opponents.

The draft follows Tuesday’s hearing on Syria featuring testimony from US Secretary of State John Kerry, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

00:30 GMT: Though not yet in session, members of the US House of Representatives have released two separate draft resolutions on potential US military action in Syria, Politico reported.

Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), a top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, offered a resolution calling for President Obama to consult with Congress within 60 days to provide information on nine fronts to justify the use of military force.

The resolution would require a summary of “attempts to build a coalition; a ‘detailed plan for military action in Syria, including specific goals and military objectives;’ what would qualify as degrading the chemical weapons supply; an explanation how a limited military strike would encourage regime change, prevent terrorists from taking control of power or weapons, secure the chemical weapons and deter their future use; how a strike would prevent Iran and Russia from keeping Assad in power; information about Al Qaeda’s access to weapons; an explanation of whether weapons from Libya are being used by the Syrian opposition and an estimation of the cost.”

The other resolution, offered by Democrats Rep. Gerry Connolly (Va.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), is also supportive of a Syria attack but seeks to narrow the scope of any such action. Their resolution bars use of ground forces, limits attacks to 60 days while prohibiting a second series of attacks — unless the Obama administration has proof Assad used chemical weapons again — and says an attack on Syria can only happen to prevent use, not stockpiling, of chemical weapons.

Tuesday, September 3rd 2013 


Syria (Photo credit: ewixx)

18:24 GMT: Russia’s missile defense system “proved its effectiveness” after it was put on high alert following the Israeli-US test launch of a ballistic missile in the Mediterranean, said Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov.

Russia is ready for “any actions, in any circumstances” Antonov stressed, praising the Russian defense reaction as “prompt and adequate.” The missile was launched in the direction of Russia’s borders, he said, adding it was “self-evident” that President Putin was immediately informed as the Commander-in-Chief.

Describing the Mediterranean as a modern “powder keg,” Antonov called for the US “not to play with fire,” and said it should show more responsibility for both regional security and world peace.

He reminded that the US and the USSR signed an agreement binding both parties to give notification of missile launches in advance, which is still valid between the US and Russia.

17:26 GMT: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday said he intends to bring the issue of the escalating Syrian crisis to the top of the G20 summit’s agenda.

Ban stressed that the use of military force is only legal in self-defense, or with the authorization of the UN Security Council. He also called for holding the Geneva-2 peace conference on Syria as soon as possible.

The UN Chief also reminded that UN investigators are set to return to Syria to investigate several other cases of alleged chemical weapons use.

16:10 GMT: Democratic leader in the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, said she believes Congress will support a resolution authorizing the use of military force against Syria.

Pelosi made her remarks after meeting the president and congressional leaders at the White House.


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