September 13, 2013 / 6:09 PM / in 6 years

France says chemical regulator "insufficient" for Syria arms control

* World “cannot simply accept Syria’s statement of intent”

* Paris wants legally binding U.N. resolution

* Says procedures of chemical weapons regulator too long

By John Irish

PARIS, Sept 13 (Reuters) - France said on Friday that a binding U.N. Security Council resolution was needed to police Syria’s promise to give up its chemical weapons, insisting that the matter could not be left to an international watchdog.

Syria applied on Thursday to sign up to the global treaty banning chemical weapons, a major first step in a Russian-backed plan that would see it give up its stocks of poison gas to avert U.S. military strikes.

However, France, which had been set to join the U.S. strikes, fears Assad may play for time by trying to deal solely with the treaty body, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

“The statements by the Syrian regime are useful, but definitely insufficient,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said. “We can’t just accept statements of intent by the Syrians. We need commitments that can be set, monitored and checked.”

Lalliot said it could take months to detail stocks according to OPCW standards, and at least two years to even begin dismantling them.

“It’s a time frame that is much longer than we expect,” Lalliot said. “If there were any breaches, they would need to be punished, otherwise resolutions would have no sense.

“There has to be a U.N. Security Council resolution because it is a text that is legally binding. All other texts within the council are insufficient, such as a presidential declaration, which is what the Russians would like to put forward.”

France, one of Assad’s fiercest critics, says the resolution must also ensure that those who carried out a chemical attack on the outskirts of Damascus on Aug. 21 do not go unpunished.

Some Western diplomats and analysts have already said it will be difficult to verify whether Syria has given up all its chemical arms since there is no known reliable inventory of the stockpile or its whereabouts.

Lalliot said a French draft resolution was still under discussion with British and American allies, and would not yet be distributed to Russia and China, the other two permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, who have previously vetoed three resolutions designed to put pressure on Assad.

He said Paris was waiting for the results of this week’s diplomatic talks and the release of a U.N. inspectors’ report on the Aug. 21 attack due out early next week.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met for a second day in Geneva on Friday to work on Moscow’s disarmament proposal, but there was no indication of an agreement on how the plan would be enforced.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius travels to China on Sunday and then on to Russia to try to secure agreement on an approach.

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