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UN votes to destroy Syria's chemical weapons

President Bashar al-Assad attends an interview with Russian

President Bashar al-Assad attends an interview with Russian television Rossiya 24 in Damascus. (Sept. 12, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty Images

UNITED NATIONS - The UN Security Council overcame near three years of diplomatic inertia Friday night and unanimously approved a resolution that requires Syria to allow the unfettered inspection, removal and destruction of its chemical weapons arsenal.

"Today's historic resolution is the first hopeful news on Syria in a long time," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said after the vote of the 15-member body at the UN headquarters in Manhattan. "For many months, I have said that the confirmed use of chemical weapons in Syria would require a firm, united response. Tonight, the international community has delivered."

The resolution also revives preparations for an international conference in Geneva that is designed to halt through diplomacy the 2 1/2-year-old civil war in Syria that has left more than 100,000 people dead. That conference is now scheduled for mid-November.

"Tonight with a strong, enforceable precedent-setting resolution requiring Syria give up its chemical weapons the United Nations Security Council has demonstrated that diplomacy can be so powerful it can peacefully defuse the worst weapons of war," said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. "So tonight we are declaring for the first time the use of chemical weapons, which the world long ago determined to be beyond the bounds of acceptable human behavior, are also a threat to international peace and security anywhere they might be used, any time they may be used under any circumstances."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who helped draft the language of the resolution with Kerry, said, "This was a coordinated effort."

He added: "Russia stands ready to participate in the forthcoming operation in Syria in all its aspects . . . Damascus has shown a readiness for real cooperation," he said referring to Syria's recent move to join the international Chemical Weapons Convention.

The resolution requires Syria to submit to intrusive inspections and the destruction of its chemical weapons arsenal. It comes over a month after the Aug. 21 attack in suburbs of Damascus that left over 1,400 people dead.

The text to be considered does cite Chapter VII of the UN charter, the so-called use of force provision, in the event that Syria does not comply with the requirements, but the UN ambassadors from the United States and Russia said that the Security Council would have to vote on a second resolution to authorize force.

Before the Aug. 21 attack, Russia and China had vetoed as many as three Security Council resolutions condemning the escalating violence in Syria, all measures that the two countries also felt would have authorized the removal by force of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Also Friday, Russia offered to provide troops to guard facilities where Syria's chemical weapons would be destroyed, as a team of UN inspectors was back in Syria to investigate three alleged incidents of chemical weapons use earlier this year. The inspectors were seen leaving their Damascus hotel in a vehicle convoy, but there was no immediate indication of where they were going.

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