Obama: Syria weapons deal must be 'verifiable'

David Jackson, USA TODAY

President Obama said Friday he hopes that U.S.-Russian talks about Syria's chemical weapons "bear fruit," but any deal to have Bashar Assad's government hand over chemical weapons must be "verifiable and enforceable."

Speaking after a meeting with the Amir of Kuwait, Obama told reporters: "Our two countries are in agreement that the use of chemical weapons that we saw in Syria was a criminal act."

He added that "it is absolutely important for the international community to respond in not only deterring repeated use of chemical weapons, but hopefully getting those chemical weapons outside of Syria."

Obama spoke as Secretary of State John Kerry's team and Russian counterparts negotiate a possible agreement over Syria's weapons.

The president announced Tuesday he would pursue a diplomatic track, but reserved the right to make a military strike on Syria over an Aug, 21 attack on rebels using chemical weapons.

An agreement could be tough to obtain, however.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who proposed the talks, and Assad have said they want the United States to give up the military option before Syria gives up its weapons; they also want the U.S. to suspend aid to anti-Assad rebels.

Obama and aides said they will not change their positions. They have also said that some international body must monitor and verify the removal of Syria's weapons, a process that could take months in any event.

As for Syria's ongoing civil war, one involving conventional weapons, Obama said: "Ultimately, what's needed for the underlying conflict is a political settlement that allows ordinary Syrians to get back to their homes, to rebuild, and to relieve the enormous suffering that's taking place."


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