By Warren Strobel
GENEVA, Sept 13 The United States and Russia, in
talks to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons program, are "coming
to agreement" on the size of its toxic stockpiles, a U.S.
official said on Friday.
The talks in Geneva between teams led by U.S. Secretary of
State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov,
which began on Thursday, are at a "pivotal point" and are
continuing into Saturday, the official told reporters.
Kerry and Lavrov are meeting in an attempt to reach
agreement on details of a plan offered by Russia this week under
which Syria would give up its chemical weapons stockpiles,
believed to be among the world's largest.
A key first step is to determine the extent of Syria's
stocks as a prelude to inspecting, securing and ultimately
Kerry said in congressional testimony earlier this week that
Washington assesses that Syria has about 1,000 tons of chemical
agents. Russia's estimate reportedly has been significantly
The two sides "made progress in coming closer to agreement
on the size of the chemical weapons stockpile," said the U.S.
official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity and
declined to provide further details.
In Washington, senior Obama administration officials said
the United States does not expect a U.N. Security Council
resolution on Syria's chemical weapons to include a potential
use of military force because Russia would veto it.
In Geneva, Russian and U.S. experts were discussing other
details of what would be a complex, and likely risky, mission to
neutralize Syria's chemical weapons in the middle of it's
2-1/2-year civil war.
Among them was how to provide security for any weapons
inspectors who would go to Syria, the official said.
Overall, the talks, which continued late into the night on
Friday, were at a "pivotal point," the official said.