Syrian minister calls chemical weapons deal a Russian-won 'victory' over U.S.

MOSCOW Sun Sep 15, 2013 10:09am EDT

1 of 3. Free Syrian Army fighters walk on a damaged street in Deir al-Zor September 14, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Mohamad Alderi

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Syria's Minister for National Reconciliation said on Sunday that the chemical weapons agreement between Russia and the United States was a "victory" for Damascus, won by its Russian allies, and had taken away the pretext for war.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called on Saturday in Geneva on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to account for his chemical weapons within a week. The deal may avert U.S. military strikes.

"This agreement, an achievement of Russian diplomats and the Russian leadership, is a victory for Syria won thanks to our Russian friends," Ali Haidar told Russian news agency RIA.

"We welcome this agreement. From one point of view, it will help Syrians exit the crisis, from another, it has prevented a war against Syria, having taken away the pretext for one from those who wanted to unleash (it)," he said.

It was not clear if the comments by Ali Haidar, who is not in President Bashar al-Assad's inner circle of decision-makers, reflects the president's views.

Russia has been Assad's staunchest international ally, protecting him from three consecutive U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at pressuring him to end a two-and-a-half-year conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people.

(Reporting by Thomas Grove; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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