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WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is welcoming an agreement to secure and destroy Syria's chemical weapons, but he says the U.S. remains prepared to act if diplomacy fails.

The agreement announced Saturday by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov calls for Syria to eliminate all its chemical weapons by the middle of next year or face U.N. penalties.

Obama says the deal offers the chance to eliminate Syria's stockpile in a transparent, expeditious and verifiable manner.

Obama adds that while important progress has been made, more work remains to be done.

He says the international community expects Syria to live up to its public commitments.

Obama says the U.S. will continue working with Russia, Britain, France, the U.N. and others to ensure that the process is verifiable and that the Syrian government is held to account if it fails to comply with the agreement.