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Obama Demands Russia Hold Syria to Account on Chemicals

A Syrian opposition fighter gestures following a Saturday airstrike reported in the city of Aleppo. President Obama on Tuesday urged Russia to ensure the Syrian government follows through on promises to eliminate its chemical arms. A Syrian opposition fighter gestures following a Saturday airstrike reported in the city of Aleppo. President Obama on Tuesday urged Russia to ensure the Syrian government follows through on promises to eliminate its chemical arms. (Fadi al-Halabi/AFP/Getty Images)

President Obama on Tuesday demanded Russian action in pushing Syria to fulfill its pledges on relinquishing its chemical arsenal, RIA Novosti reports.

"Syria must meet its commitments, and Russia has a responsibility to ensure that Syria complies," Obama told journalists in Washington.

President Bashar Assad's government admitted possessing chemical weapons and agreed to give them up several weeks after sarin nerve agent allegedly killed more than 1,400 people on the edge of Damascus. Russia, a backer of Assad's regime, has supported the regime's denials of responsibility for the chemical strike in rebel-occupied territory.

Washington recently accused the Syrian government of dragging its feet in the disarmament effort, which last week missed a deadline for moving most of the chemical-warfare stocks onto foreign vessels for removal and destruction. Damascus has blamed delays on the dangerous nature of shipping the materials across territory ravaged by nearly three years of civil war. Still, Syrian and Russian officials have suggested an end-of-June deadline remains within reach for the stockpile's full destruction.

A key international official on Tuesday said Assad's government is demonstrating "constructive cooperation" in the disarmament effort, and voiced confidence that the mid-year goal "will be met," Agence France-Presse reported.

"What's important ... is that there is an acceleration and intensification of efforts as we progress in time towards the deadline," said Sigrid Kaag, special coordinator of the international disarmament operation overseen by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Meanwhile, Obama said Washington has not ruled out the option of attacking Syrian government targets.

"Right now we don't think that there is a military solution per se to the problem, but the situation is fluid and we are continuing to explore every possible avenue to solve this problem," he said.

The potential for the United States to employ armed force in Syria became widely discussed immediately following the Aug. 21 chemical strike in the Syrian capital's Ghouta suburbs.

NTI Analysis

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