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Syria says now full member of chemical arms pact

Syria became a full member of the global anti-chemical weapons treaty on Thursday, the country's U.N. envoy said, a move that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had promised as part of a Russian plan to avoid U.S. air strikes. The United States reacted cautiously. Several U.N. diplomats and a U.N. official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that it was not yet clear that Syria had fulfilled all the conditions for legal accession to the treaty. "I think there are a few more steps they have to take (before Syria is a signatory) but that's why we're studying the document," a U.N. official said. Syria was one of only seven countries not to have joined the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, which commits members to destroying their stockpiles.

"Legally speaking Syria has become, starting today, a full member of the (chemical weapons) convention," Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari told reporters in New York after submitting relevant documents to the United Nations.

Erin Pelton, spokeswoman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, said Syria's declared intention to join the Chemical Weapons Convention was just a first step.

"This long overdue step does not address the pressing and immediate need for a mechanism to identify, verify, secure and ultimately destroy Assad's chemical weapons stockpile so they can never again be used," Pelton said. "It also does not include immediate consequences for non-compliance."

"The international community must insist on immediate progress toward destruction of Syria's CW (chemical weapons) program and also make clear that there will be consequences for any Syrian noncompliance," she said.

Pelton added that the United States would "continue our ongoing discussions with the Russians and key international partners to urgently respond to the Assad regime's blatant disregard for international norms."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are meeting in Geneva to try to hammer out the details of a Russian plan for Syria to place its chemical arsenal under international control.

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