The United States and Russia agreed on Saturday (September 14) on a proposal to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, averting the possibility of any immediate U.S. military action against President Bashar al-Assad's government.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced the agreement after nearly three days of talks in Geneva.

Kerry said that under the pact, Syria must submit a "comprehensive listing" of its chemical weapons stockpiles within one week.

He told a news conference with Lavrov that U.N. weapons inspectors must be on the ground in Syria no later than November. The goal, he said, was the complete destruction of Syria's chemical weapons by the middle of 2014.

"It must be credible and verifiable. If fully implemented, we believe it can meet these standards. The world will now expect the Assad regime to live up to its public commitments and I as said at the outset of these negotiations, there can be no games no room for avoidance, or anything less than full compliance by the Assad regime," Kerry said.

Lavrov told reporters the agreement did not say anything about the use of force in the case of a violation of Syria's obligations:

Kerry said that if Syria did not comply with the agreement, which must be finalised by the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), it would face consequences under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, the part that covers sanctions and military action.

There was no agreement on what those measures would be. U.S. President Barack Obama reserves the right to use military force in Syria, Kerry said.

"The potential of a threat of force is clearly one of those options that may or may not be available to the Security Council and a subject to debate - everybody knows the differences of opinion about it - but depending on what Assad does that possibility exists either within the process of the United Nations or, as it did here, with a decision by the president of the United States and like-minded allies if they thought that was what it came to," Kerry said.

The latest talks prompted Obama to put on hold his plans for U.S. air strikes in response to the chemical weapons attack. Obama is now also spared facing a vote in Congress on military action that he had appeared increasingly likely to lose at this stage.

Experts say removing Syria's hundreds of metric tons of chemical weapons, scattered in secret installations, will pose huge technical problems in the middle of a civil war.

Presented by Adam Justice

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