Russia may alter support if it sees cheating on pact

AFP-JIJI

Russia may change its position on Syria if it sees any “cheating” by the regime, a senior Kremlin official said Saturday after Damascus disclosed details of its chemical stockpile in the first step of a disarmament plan.

“I am speaking theoretically and hypothetically, but if we become convinced that (Syrian President Bashar) Assad is cheating, we can change our position,” the Kremlin chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov, was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

Ivanov did not clarify his remarks, and reiterated Russia’s opposition to intervention in the country, racked by civil war that has killed more than 110,000 in 30 months. He added that he expects the locations of the Syrian chemical arsenal to be disclosed within a week, but cautioned that the army does not control the entire country.

The U.S.-Russian plan to dismantle the chemical arms stockpile has helped prevent U.S.-led military action following a chemical attack last month that killed hundreds of people and which Washington blames on the regime. Under the plan, Assad’s regime had until Saturday to supply details of its arsenal.

On the eve of the disclosure deadline, the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said it “has received an initial disclosure from the Syrian government of its chemical weapons program.”

Inside Syria on Saturday, troops killed at least 15 people and recaptured villages in the central province of Hama, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. Official media reported that loyalist forces seized control of three villages in Hama province that had been in rebel hands, but did not mention casualties. The Observatory said the 15 died when troops stormed the Sunni village of Sheikh Hadid late Friday.