Kerry: ‘We’re Not Waiting For Long’ For Syria To Turn Over Chemical Weapons

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry warns that the United States “will not wait” long for Syria to turn over its chemical weapons to the international community.

Speaking before the House Armed Services Committee Tuesday, Kerry said that the Syrian government should not use the acceptance of Russia’s proposal as a delaying tactic.

“We’re waiting for that proposal, but we’re not waiting for long,” Kerry said during testimony. “President Obama will take a hard look at it, but it has to be swift, it has to be real, it has to be verifiable. It can’t be a delaying tactic.”

Kerry said, despite Syria accepting Russia’s proposal to turn its chemical weapons over, that a military option should still be considered.

“The use of force should absolutely not be off the table,” Kerry stated.

Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem announced Tuesday that the Syrian government would accept Russia’s proposal to hand over its chemical weapons to the international community.

“Yesterday we held a round of very fruitful negotiations with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and he put forward an initiative regarding chemical weapons. Already in the evening we accepted Russia’s initiative,” al-Muallem said, according to Russia Today, adding that this move is to “pull the rug from under the feet of American aggression.”

In an interview with CBS News Monday, President Barack Obama said he is willing to take a look at Russia’s proposal to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control.

“I think I want to see what exactly is being proposed, and in the interim, it is very important for Congress and the American people to recognize that we would not be getting even ticklers like this if it weren’t for the fact that we were serious about potentially taking action in the absence of some sort of movement,” Obama said.

The president also told ABC News that a strike would “absolutely” be on hold if Assad’s regime abandoned its chemical weapon.

Obama has called on Congress to authorize a military strike following an Aug. 21 chemical attack he said killed more than 1,400 people, including hundreds of children. He will be addressing the nation Tuesday night to garner support from skeptical lawmakers and the public.

One of those skeptical lawmakers, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, announced he will be voting against the Senate resolution to launch a military strike against Syria.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told “CBS This Morning” that the United States has no choice but to allow time for a new diplomatic offensive on Syria to “play out,” even though he’s skeptical that the plan is genuine.

McCain said Tuesday there is “incoherence” in the administration’s statements. But he also said that “not to pursue” the diplomatic option “would be a mistake.”

McCain said he will propose an amendment to the Senate’s Syria resolution incorporating the proposal for Syria to surrender its chemical weapons. The amendment would require verification through international monitors and call for guidelines and benchmarks to be met.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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