United States, Russia agree on United Nations-Syria chemical arms measure
officials said. HopefuL: Campaigners from the global advocacy group Avaaz, dressed as Presidents Obama and Rouhani, demand the two leaders negotiate a ceasefire to the Syrian crisis during the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday There had been feverish speculation that Obama and Rouhani might greet each other in passing at a U.N.-hosted luncheon but the Iranian president skipped it. The official reason was because alcohol was served with the meal, according to Press TV, Iran’s English-language broadcaster. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was present for Obama’s speech before lunch. U.S. Deputy U.N. Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo was seated at the U.S. table when Rouhani spoke later in the afternoon. Rouhani has said his election was a mandate from Iranians for more moderate policies but hard-line conservatives skeptical of any detente with the United States are still dominant in Iran’s parliament and military institutions, and the newly elected president might have feared a backlash. Obama appears keen to pursue an opportunity for a major foreign policy achievement, but at the same time needs to protect himself from U.S. conservatives who see outreach to Iran as weakness. A face-to-face meeting would have posed political risks for Obama, just as for Rouhani, as it could have increased expectations for swift progress and fueled criticism that he is rewarding the new Iranian president prematurely. Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton introduces President Barack Obama and former president Bill Clinton for a conversation about the future of health care reform in America A group of 11 Republican U.S. senators, led by Florida’s Marco Rubio, wrote to Obama on Tuesday expressing concern that he might be considering offering a concession that would allow Iran to preserve part of a nuclear-weapons program. In his speech, Obama reaffirmed his pledge that his administration would not tolerate Iran’s development of nuclear weapons but avoided repeating his previous assertion that all options are on the table – code for possible military action – in dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue.
With rebel forces plagued by divisions, the Friends of Syria – a bloc of mainly Western and Gulf Arab countries plus Turkey -followed up Thursday’s announcement of the draft resolution with a pledge to boost aid to the opposition. Weapons shipments to the rebels have been inadequate to shift the military balance in their favour. US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday that Syria “will implode before any side would claim a military victory” and that all sides needed to move rapidly to put a political solution in place to end the conflict. A senior US official said earlier that the United States and China – another permanent Security Council member – strongly agreed on the need to quickly adopt a binding resolution on eradicating Syria’s chemical arsenal, a remark that appeared aimed at putting pressure on Russia to accept the measure. Russia at first appeared unswayed. Kerry met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi for about an hour on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations. After the draft resolution was announced, the Chinese foreign minister said, “The major concerns of all the parties, including China’s concerns, have basically been resolved.” China has backed Russia to veto three council resolutions since October 2011 that would have condemned Assad’s government and threatened it with sanctions. Western diplomats say Beijing has little reason to support Assad but is eager to ensure Russia will continue to back it in the Security Council on issues like North Korea. Assad’s government last week disclosed to a UN-backed weapons watchdog the extent of its arsenal, meeting the first deadline of the ambitious disarmament deal that calls for the weapons to be eliminated by June 2014. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Thursday that his country was ready to help guard Syrian chemical weapons sites and destroy Assad’s stockpiles but would not ship any of the chemical arms to Russia for destruction. FRAGMENTED OPPOSITION The head of the opposition Syrian Supreme Military Council cut short a visit to France on Thursday and said he would head to Syria on Friday for talks with rebel brigades that broke with the Western-backed coalition. General Salim Idris, who commands the coalition’s military wing known as the Free Syrian Army, or FSA, said he would meet with fighters from the 13 groups that rejected on Tuesday the authority of the Turkey-based coalition.
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