BEIRUT (AP) - Syrian President Bashar Assad publicly agreed Thursday to a Russian plan to secure and destroy his chemical weapons, but said the proposal would work only if the U.S. halts threats of military action.
Assad also said his government will start submitting data on its chemical weapons stockpile a month after signing the convention banning such weapons, while the U.N. said Thursday that it received a letter from Syria stating its intention to join. The treaty states that a nation becomes a party 30 days after such a letter is submitted.
But American officials, meeting with Russian counterparts in Geneva, insisted on a speedier Syrian accounting of stockpiles.
Assad's remarks to Russia's state Rossiya 24 news channel were his first since the Russian plan was announced Monday as a way to avert a potential U.S. military strike in response to the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds near Damascus.
He said that Syria is relinquishing control over its chemical weapons because of Russia.
"We agreed to put Syria's chemical weapons under international supervision in response to Russia's request and not because of American threats," Assad said.
"In my view, the agreement will begin to take effect a month after its signing, and Syria will begin turning over to international organizations data about its chemical weapons," Assad added.
He said this is "standard procedure" and that Syria will stick to it.