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World powers meet over Syria crisis
Diplomatic efforts are continuing to end the Syrian crisis after the five key members of the United Nations Security Council met to discuss how to deal with the country's chemical weapons.
There are suggestions that efforts are taking place to arrange peace talks between President Bashar Assad's government and rebels battling against his regime.
The five veto-wielding members of the Security Council - Britain, the United States, France, Russia and China - met to discuss what to include in a new resolution requiring that Damascus' chemical weapons stockpile be secured and dismantled. They left Russia's UN mission without commenting. Meanwhile, US secretary of state John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov are to hold talks in Geneva about how destruction of the weapons could take place.
In an opinion piece for The New York Times, Russian president Vladimir Putin called for caution in dealing with Syria, saying a potential mlitary strike by the US in the wake of a deadly chemical weapons attack on August 21 would create more victims and could spread the conflict beyond the country and unleash a wave of terrorism.
Russia, Syria's most important ally, has agreed to a surprise offer from Mr Kerry that Assad could avert US military action by turning over "every single bit of his chemical weapons" to international control within a week. However the mechanics of such a deal still need to be worked out.
The diplomatic moves represent the first major effort in more than a year to try to bring talks between supporters of the Syrian government and the opposition. France has proposed a draft resolution that demands Syria's chemical weapons be put under international control and dismantled. It also condemns the chemical attack that Washington says killed 1,400 people and calls for the perpetrators to be sent to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.
Submitted under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, which makes it enforceable militarily, it warns of "very serious consequences" if Syria does not comply. The Russians have rejected any resolution under Chapter 7 and proposed a weaker statement instead, a move rejected by the US, Britain and France.
The talks on Wednesday night followed Prime Minister David Cameron's defence of the "strong stance" taken by the UK and US in response to the use of chemical weapons, claiming international pressure had led to a potential diplomatic breakthrough.
Mr Cameron said the proposal from Russia for international inspectors to seize and destroy chemical weapons in Syria would not have happened without the determination to stand up to Assad. He told MPs the development was a "vindication" of the "determination to stand up to chemical weapons use". "We would not be in this position of pursuing new avenues of getting Syrian chemical weapons out of Syria and destroyed unless a strong stance had been taken," he said.
US president Barack Obama has asked congressional leaders to delay a vote on a resolution authorising limited military strikes, giving time to pursue the Russian plan and avoiding a potential humiliating defeat.