* Russia claims victory in deal on Syria U.N. resolution
* Obama calls resolution "potentially huge victory"
* Britain wanted reference to International Criminal Court
By John Irish and Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS, Sept 27 The U.N. Security
Council is set to adopt a resolution on Friday on eradicating
Syria's chemical arsenal after Russia and the United States
overcame a bitter deadlock to avert U.S. military action against
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.
Amid newfound unity of the veto-wielding council members -
Russia, China, France, the United States and Britain - French
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he hoped a date would also
be agreed on Friday for so-called Geneva 2 peace talks on Syria.
"I hope we will be able to set a date so that Geneva 2 can
finally take place because the only solution is political. We
moved forward on the chemical side but people are continuing to
kill each other on the ground," Fabius told reporters.
The five big U.N. powers are due to meet Secretary-General
Ban Ki-moon and international Syria mediator Lakhdar Brahimi on
Friday on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly.
Diplomats said if a date was set for the peace talks in Geneva,
it would likely be November, as October appeared too ambitious.
U.N. diplomats said the full 15-member Security Council was
expected to vote on the chemical weapons resolution at 8 p.m.
(0000 GMT) on Friday. It will also be the first time the council
formally endorses a plan for a political transition in Syria
agreed at an international conference in Geneva in June 2012.
U.S. President Barack Obama said the draft U.N. resolution
was a "potentially huge victory for the international community"
and described it as legally binding, verifiable and enforceable.
A Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said
the resolution deflected attention from Obama's wavering on the
Syrian conflict. "For the U.S., this resolution turns the
attention away from its powerlessness," he said.
Assad agreed to destroy Syria's chemical weapons following
global outrage over a sarin gas attack in the Damascus suburbs
last month - the world's deadliest chemical attack in 25 years.
Western powers blame Assad, while Assad's government and its
close ally, Russia, say the rebels were responsible.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia continued
to work "energetically" to help convene Syria peace talks.
"People continue to die and peaceful civilians suffer every
day in Syria," he told the U.N. General Assembly. "Virtually the
only possibility today to put an end to this turmoil is to move
from a deadlock to the process of political settlement of the
As a precursor to the U.N. vote, the 41-member Organization
for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons approved a decision in
The Hague on Friday laying out procedures to rapidly verify and
destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile. The decision will
see inspectors sent to Syria starting Tuesday.
The five big U.N. powers ended weeks of diplomatic deadlock
on Thursday by agreeing to the draft Security Council resolution
- based on a deal reached by Moscow and Washington earlier this
month - that demands Syria give up its chemical weapons.
Until recently, the council has been paralyzed on how to
deal with the Syrian civil war. Russia, backed by China, has
vetoed three resolutions since October 2011 that would have
condemned Assad's government and threatened it with sanctions.
Western powers on the Security Council conceded they had
backed away from many of their initial demands during
negotiations. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov
claimed a victory, saying Moscow had stood its ground on
opposing any threats of military force against Syria.
A major sticking point had been Russia's opposition to
writing the resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter,
which covers its authority to enforce its decisions with
measures such as sanctions or military force.
The compromise draft resolution makes the measure legally
binding, but provides for no means of automatic enforcement if
Syria fails to comply, as the United States, Britain and France
"No concessions have been made," Ryabkov told Voice of
Russia radio. "The main thing is that the automatic use of
Chapter 7 has been ruled out."
France's Fabius told reporters, "We shall see in the coming
days and weeks if the Russians are really coherent with what
they proposed and the vote ... we will need to be vigilant on
the action or inaction of Syria."
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power
described the draft resolution as "very significant" because,
when adopted, it would be the first time during the conflict
that the council had imposed binding obligations on Assad.
"Taking chemical weapons away from a regime that just used
chemical weapons ... is a very intense form of accountability,"
Power said on Thursday. "I don't think anybody can discount the
role that the threat of limited military action played in
expediting and catalyzing this conversation."
Obama has asked Congress to authorize the use of limited
military strikes to punish Assad for the Damascus gas attack.
The deal between Russia and the United States to rid Syria of
its chemical weapons averted those strikes for now.
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said he was pleased the
draft resolution called for "accountability" for those
responsible for the chemical attacks. He added, however, that he
would have liked a reference to the International Criminal Court
in The Hague - something diplomats said Russia opposed.
To impose further measures, like sanctions or military
action, on the Syrian government for non-compliance with the
chemical weapons deal, the Security Council would need to agree
on a second resolution.
The United Nations says more than 100,000 people have been
killed in the civil war, after the government tried to crush
pro-democracy protests, and more than half of Syria's 20 million
people need help.