U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says that if President Bashar al-Assad wants to avert an attack on Syria in response to his government's alleged use of chemical weapons he should hand over his entire arsenal by the end of the week.
Speaking Monday in London, the top U.S. diplomat added that he did not believe Mr. Assad would take such action and questioned whether it was even possible with a civil war raging in Syria.
Still, Kerry's statement prompted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to announce Monday that Moscow would push its ally Syria to place its chemical weapons under international control and then dismantle them quickly to avert U.S. strikes.
Kerry and Lavrov discussed Syria's chemical weapons in a phone call after the Russian proposal was aired.
U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken said the Obama administration would "take a hard look" at Russia's offer, which he said only emerged after U.S. threats of force against Mr. Assad's regime.
Syria welcomed the Russian plan but did not provide specifics on how it might comply.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said Syria should be encouraged to put its chemical weapons beyond use, but added that the international community must be careful in case it uses any such offers as a diversionary tactic.
United Nations Chief Ban Ki-moon said that in a bid to help the U.N. Security Council overcome what he called its "embarrassing paralysis," he may ask the council to demand Syria move its chemical arms stocks to Syrian sites where they can be safely stored and destroyed.
Speaking to reporters in New York, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he may also ask the 15-nation body to demand that Syria join the international anti-chemical weapons convention, a treaty that Damascus has never signed.
In an interview videotaped in Damascus with the U.S. network CBS, Mr. Assad denied ordering the August 21 sarin gas attack outside the Syrian capital. Washington says that attack killed more than 1,400 people, including at least 400 children.
Mr. Assad warned the United States "should expect everything" in response to a potential U.S.-led military strike, saying that if "rebels or terrorists in the region" have chemical weapons, they could use them after any American intervention.
The White House said 14 more countries have signed on to a statement condemning Syria for the August 21 attack and calling for a strong international response to hold the Syrian government accountable. That brings the total to 25 nations.