U.S. officials said on Monday they will take a "hard look" at a Russian proposal for Syria to surrender its chemical weapons to international control to avoid a military strike.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Monday the U.S. would consider the proposal floated by the foreign ministers of Russia and Syria with "serious skepticism" because it might be a stalling tactic. She said Syria had consistently refused to destroy its chemical weapons in the past.
The proposal came after Secretary of State John Kerry said in London on Monday that Syrian President Bashar Assad could end the crisis by turning over all his chemical weapons. Harf said Kerry wasn't putting forth a formal proposal.
Meanwhile, U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice said on Monday that the United States cannot allow countries like North Korea or Iran think that Washington would not react to a chemical weapons attack in Syria.
"We cannot allow terrorists bent on destruction, or a nuclear North Korea, or an aspiring nuclear Iran, to believe for one minute that we are shying away from our determination to back up our longstanding warnings," Rice said in her first major speech since taking over as President Barack Obama's top security adviser in July.
In her speech at the New America Foundation think tank, Rice said the United States intends to renew its push for the UN-sponsored Geneva peace process in Syria following any limited military strikes that are currently being considered by the U.S. Congress.
Russia's proposal comes as Obama, who blames President Bashar Assad for killing hundreds of his own people in a chemical attack last month, is pressing for a limited strike against the Syrian government. Assad's regime has denied launching the attack, insisting along with its ally Russia that the attack was launched by the rebels to drag the U.S. into war.
"The Syrian Arab Republic welcomes the Russian initiative, which is motivated by the Russian leadership's concern for the life of our citizens and the security of our country," Moallem told reporters in Moscow, according to the Interfax news agency.
Also on Monday, the White House said on Monday fourteen more countries have signed on to a statement condemning Syria for the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack, and calling for a strong international response to hold the Syrian government accountable.
The additional countries brought the total number backing the statement to 25; the new countries include the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, the White House said.
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