16 Sep 2013

''Victory'' for Damascus hailed by Syria

1:25 pm on 16 September 2013

Syria's Minister for National Reconciliation says the chemical weapons agreement between Russia and the United States is a "victory" for Damascus, won by its Russian allies.

Ali Haidar told the Russian news agency RIA the deal had taken away the pretext for war.

After almost three days of talks in Geneva, the United States and Russia have agreed on a proposal to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons arsenal

The deal may avert US military strikes although President Barack Obama says the United States remains prepared to act if diplomacy fails.

China, France, Britain, the UN, the Arab League and NATO have all expressed satisfaction with the agreement, which was announced on Saturday.

President Francois Hollande of France said agreement on Syria could be put to a vote at the United Nations Security Council by the end of the week.

He said a threat of sanctions against the Syrian government has to be incorporated into a Security Council resolution - to set out what would happen if Syria fails to comply.

Mr Hollande said the threat of military forces also needs to stay on the table.

Rebel suburbs bombarded

Meanwhile, Syrian warplanes and artillery bombarded rebel suburbs of the capital Damascus on Saturday.

Rebels say the international focus on poison gas is a sideshow and dismiss talk that the arms pact might herald peace talks.

They say the regime has stepped up an offensive with ordinary weaponry now that the threat of air strikes has receded.