Syria hopes rise as US strike on hold

Russia said Wednesday it had given the United States a plan to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control, raising hopes of a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
The move came a day after threatened US-led strikes against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime were put on ice in response to Russia’s offer to oversee Syria giving up its arsenal after Washington accused
Damascus of using deadly sarin gas against its own people last month.
US secretary of state John Kerry is to meet Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Thursday for talks on the disarmament process that are expected to run until Friday at least.
“We handed over to the Americans a plan to place chemical weapons in Syria under international control. We expect to discuss it in Geneva,” a source in the Russian delegation was quoted as saying.
Russian officials provided no details of the plan which has effectively pushed military action off the table for the time being, although both the US and France stressed it remains an option.
With the risk of an attack having receded considerably for now, Syrian President, Mr Bashar al-Assad — who turned 48 on Wednesday — was free to pursue his battle with a rebel coalition that was left dismayed by the West’s retreat from intervention.
US President Barack Obama has expressed optimism that the Russian initiative can lead to the removal of Syria’s chemical weapons without the use of force.
The switch to diplomacy was welcomed on Wednesday by China.
But France insisted military action remained an option.
“France will remain, in permanent contact with its partners, mobilised to punish the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime and to deter them from using them again,” President Francois Hollande said.

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