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Kerry, Lavrov Say Geneva Meeting Could Help Revive Syria Peace Talks

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says he and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, have had "constructive" talks on ending Syria's chemical weapons program.

The two diplomats met Friday with U.N. Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in Geneva. They discussed a Russian plan on how to put Syria's chemical weapons under international control. The move could avert a U.S. military strike in retaliation for what the U.S. says was a Syrian military poisonous gas attack on civilians last month.

VOA's State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports that the diplomats had a working lunch and that their delegations broke into small groups into the evening.

Kerry says he and Lavrov have agreed to do "homework" as part of a bid to get Syria's warring factions to a conference on a transitional government.

"We both agreed to do that homework and meet again in New York around the time of the U.N. General Assembly, around the 28th, in order to see if it is possible then to find a date for that conference."

In New York, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said he expects a report from a team investigating the August 21st attack near Damascus will be an "overwhelming report" that shows chemical weapons were used. U.N. officials told VOA the report is expected on Monday.

It will reportedly focus on analysis of biomedical and environmental samples the U.N. team collected from the area of the attack. The team also took statements from medical personnel and survivors.

The team's mandate is to say only whether chemical agents were used, not who used them.

The United States says more than 1,400 people were killed in the attack, which the U.S. says was carried out by the Syrian military. The Assad government blames rebels for carrying out the attack.

A spokesman for Mr. Ban said although the report is not complete, the secretary-general has been in touch with the team's experts.

Syria has joined an international chemical weapons ban, but insists it has one month to provide details on its chemical weapons stockpile.

President Bashar al-Assad said Thursday he will only finalize the deal to remove the chemical weapons if the U.S. stops threatening to attack.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday praised Syria's decision to join the global poison gas ban, saying it shows the "serious intentions" of the Syrian government toward resolving the conflict.

Mr. Ban also expressed his continued concern over the civil war in Syria, which has killed more than 100,000 people and displaced at least six million.

Speaking about calls for Mr. Assad to leave power, he said it is for the people of Syria to decide.

"What happened is that he has committed many crimes against humanity and therefore I am sure that there will be, surely, the process of accountability when everything is over."

Mr. Ban said the international community must press for a political solution and that it is time for the parties to stop fighting and start talking.

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