US Distances, Then Embraces Russia Idea on Syria

By: Deb Riechmann, Associated Press
By: Deb Riechmann, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) Twenty-four hours after distancing itself from a Russian proposal to secure Syria's chemical weapons, the State Department moved to embrace the idea, which the U.S. says President Barack Obama and the Russian president first discussed last year.

Russia's surprise announcement came Monday after Secretary of State John Kerry said Syrian President Bashar Assad could avert a U.S. strike by turning "over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week.'"

The State Department said Kerry's remarks were just a rhetorical flourish - that he wasn't floating a proposal.

But as support for the Russian idea snowballed, administration officials retooled their message.

Obama, while expressing deep skepticism, has declared it a "potentially a significant breakthrough" that could head off the threats of U.S. air strikes.

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