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Russia opposes use of force in resolution on Syria

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Russia insisted Tuesday that a U.N. Security Council resolution governing Syria’s handling of its chemical weapons not allow the use of force, but it suggested that could change if Damascus reneges on the deal to give up its stockpile.

The main Syrian opposition coalition, meanwhile, urged the international community to take swift action against the regime of President Bashar Assad in response to a U.N. finding that the nerve agent sarin was used in a deadly attack near the capital last month.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said his country “spoke clearly” about rejecting the use of force when the chemical weapons agreement was worked out Saturday in Geneva between Washington and Moscow. The plan calls for an inventory of Syria’s chemical weapons within a week, with all components of the program out of the country or destroyed by mid-2014.

But if signs emerge that Syria is not fulfilling the agreement or there are reports of further chemical weapons use, “then the Security Council will examine the situation,” Lavrov said, suggesting the issue could be reconsidered.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said a resolution on the U.S.-Russia deal must be enforceable, telling reporters that the “most effective” way is under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter. That deals with threats to international peace and security and has provisions for enforcement by military or non-military means, such as sanctions.

While in principle all Security Council resolutions are legally binding, Ban said, “in reality, we need clear guidelines under Chapter 7.”

Obama seeks Congress’

support for Syria plan

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress on Tuesday that the United States will closely monitor every step of the plan for eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons while maintaining a credible military threat against Bashar Assad’s government.

Meeting behind closed doors, Kerry briefed members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the chemical weapons strategy he negotiated with Russia last week in Geneva. One of Kerry’s deputies, Wendy Sherman, spoke by telephone with House Foreign Affairs Committee members.

“He (Kerry) said that the watchwords are not ‘trust but verify,’ they are ‘verify and verify,’” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in summing Kerry’s message at the session. “I think it reflects the fact that we’re dealing with a war zone, civil war under way, which makes it extremely difficult and we’re dealing with questionable allies in this effort. ... It is a daunting task but it will serve the world well if we can do it and make this a safer world.”

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