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Syria thrown weapons plan lifeline
David Cameron said the plan for Syria to place its chemical weapons under international control was 'hugely welcome'
Barack Obama has said he will put plans for a military strike against Syria on hold if the country places all of its chemical weapons for destruction under international control.
The US president said the proposal could be "potentially a significant breakthrough", but he remained sceptical that Syria would carry it out.
David Cameron said the Russian plan for Syria to place its chemical weapons under international control was "hugely welcome", but he warned that it must not become a "distraction" from resolving the crisis over poison gas attacks on civilians in the country.
The proposal was made by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov just hours after US secretary of state John Kerry suggested that Syrian president Bashar Assad might forestall international military action on his country by giving up his chemical arsenal.
Even though Mr Kerry made clear that he had no expectation of Assad taking this step, Moscow seized on the idea as a potential solution to the current impasse over the international community's response to the use of nerve gas sarin against civilians in a suburb of Damascus on August 21, which killed 1,429 people.
Following talks in Moscow with his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Moallem, Mr Lavrov said: "If the establishment of international control over chemical weapons in that country would allow avoiding strikes, we will immediately start working with Damascus. We are calling on the Syrian leadership to not only agree on placing chemical weapons storage sites under international control, but also on its subsequent destruction and fully joining the treaty on prohibition of chemical weapons."
Mr al-Moallem said that Syria "welcomes Russia's initiative, based on the Syrian's government care about the lives of our people and security of our country".
The White House pressed ahead with efforts to persuade the US Congress to approve a military strike and Mr Obama said the developments were doubtless due in part to the "credible possibility" of that action. US officials insisted that Assad's government must be held accountable for using chemical weapons regardless of what happened to its stocks.
Mr Obama told NBC News that he was taking a statement from Damascus welcoming the idea "with a grain of salt initially", but said he would "absolutely" halt a US military strike if Syria's stockpiles were successfully secured. "My objective here has always been to deal with a very specific problem," Mr Obama told ABC News. "If we can do that without a military strike, that is overwhelmingly my preference."
Asked to comment on the Russian plan, Labour leader Ed Miliband told ITV's Daybreak: "We were right to prevent the rush to war... I think the signs from the Russian-Syrian proposal are encouraging. We have got to be cautious about it, we have got to see whether they are serious. But if it is the case that the proposal is serious, it will be the British Parliament that stepped in and and said 'Now, hang on a minute - let's take this calmly and in a measured way'."