Middle East

Russian offers troops to help remove Syria chemical arms

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks in Moscow, on 16 September, 2013.
Image caption Mr Lavrov's deal with the US put back the prospect of Washington taking military action against Syria

Russia can send its military personnel to help in the proposed operation to eliminate Syria's chemical arms, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says.

Mr Lavrov told Russian TV that military observers could help Syria destroy its stockpiles under a US-Russian deal.

He also accused the US of using "blackmail" over a UN resolution.

The international chemical weapons watchdog, the OPCW, says Syria has met the deadline to submit details of its estimated 1,000-tonne chemical arsenal.

This was the first step in a deal, brokered by Russia and the United States, to eliminate the weapons by the middle of next year.

Specialist monitors

A large contingent of Russian troops would not be necessary - rather a small detachment of observers - Mr Lavrov told the pro-Kremlin First Channel.

Arab states and Turkey could be part of the monitoring mission, he suggested.

In the same interview, Mr Lavrov accused the US, Britain and France of being "blinded" by their objective of regime change in Syria.

He said Western countries were threatening to stop work on Syria's chemical disarmament deal unless Russia supported a UN resolution authorising military action against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia - a key ally of the Syrian government - has blocked previous such resolutions in the Security Council.

Mr Lavrov said the OPCW was "about to make a decision" on Syria but the process had been placed in jeopardy by the "arrogant position of some Western partners".

"Our American partners are beginning to blackmail us," he said. The US, Britain and France should, he argued, be focused instead on the "unique opportunity" to solve the problem of Syria's chemical weapons.

In Syria on Sunday a mortar round hit the compound of the Russian embassy, in the capital, Damascus.

There were no immediate reports of injuries in the attack. The area in central Damascus where the embassy is located has regularly been targeted by rebel forces.