The White House announced Tuesday that President Barack Obama is open to discussion of a possible United Nations takeover of Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles. The plan was a diplomatic option proposed by Russia, which has thus far blocked any international military intervention sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council.
The possibility of an American response to the three-year-old Syrian conflict has escalated in recent weeks, with the Obama administration announcing it has evidence recent chemical weapons attacks were perpetrated by the Syrian government.
The president said Monday he is open to a diplomatic response to the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, but emphasized the administration has to "take it with a grain of salt initially." A White House official said they were working with allies to see if the Russian plan could take the place of military action, and that Obama had already spoken with both President François Hollande of France and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain.
"They agreed to work closely together, and in consultation with Russia and China, to explore seriously the viability of the Russian proposal to put all Syrian chemical weapons and related materials fully under international control in order to ensure their verifiable and enforceable destruction," the White House official said.
China and Russia have both used their Security Council vetoes to block any United Nations resolution giving the go-ahead to military action against Syria, but China said it supports the Russian plan to obtain control of Syrian chemical weapons.
A bipartisan group of senators is also in favor of exploring talks in the United Nations, putting a vote on a Senate resolution to authorize American military strikes on hold. They are drafting an alternate Senate resolution that would require Syrian dictator Bashar Assad to turn over his country's nuclear weapons, but would authorize use of military force if the United Nations could not establish control by a set deadline.
A joint statement by Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, both members of the bipartisan senate group, said a United Nations resolution must be presented as a "take it or leave it" offer:
Such a resolution must include specific requirements for immediate and intrusive inspections, unfettered international access to every site and suspected site in Syria possessing any weapons of mass destruction, guarantees for secure freedom of movement for all international inspectors, immediate steps by Assad to begin transferring his weapons of mass destruction to international custody, and clear consequences and triggers for action if obligations are not met by a time certain, among other commitments.
They expressed concern that such a resolution was a "gambit" by Syria and Russia to play for more time.
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