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Hague to be briefed on Syria deal

Foreign Secretary William Hague is to hold fresh talks on Syria on Monday after the United States and Russia agreed a plan to secure and destroy President Bashar Assad's arsenal of chemical weapons.

Mr Hague will travel to Paris for the meeting after a framework agreement was hammered out by US secretary of state John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov during three days of talks in Geneva.

The Foreign Secretary described the deal as a "significant step forward" and said it should be followed by swift action to begin the transfer of Syrian chemical weapons - reportedly scattered at multiple locations around the country - to international control.

"The priority must now be full and prompt implementation of the agreement, to ensure the transfer of Syria's chemical weapons to international control," he said. "The onus is now on the Assad regime to comply with this agreement in full. The international community, including Russia, must hold the regime to account. This includes doing everything we can to stop the continuing bloodshed in Syria, bringing all sides together to agree a political solution to the conflict."

Mr Hague will be briefed at the Paris meeting by Mr Kerry on the details of the plan along with French foreign minister Laurent Fabius.

The deal requires Syria to submit a full inventory of its stockpiles within a week, international inspectors to be on the ground by November and the weapons to be destroyed or removed from the country by mid 2014. Failure to could comply would be referred to the United Nations Security Council, with the prospect of a Chapter 7 resolution which could permit either a military or a non-military response.

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon has said he believed a report by UN inspectors due out on Monday would be ''an overwhelming report that chemical weapons were used'' in an attack which killed hundreds last month.

The government of Bashar Assad has denied being behind the assault and claims Syrian rebels were responsible.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: "We welcome any move by the Russians and the Americans, working together, in order to impose an exacting, verifiable timetable which won't slip, which won't allow Assad to somehow escape from his obligations, such that chemical weapons are put beyond the use of the regime again, put under international surveillance and ultimately disposed of altogether.

"If the talks between the Russians and the Americans in Geneva lead to that outcome I think everybody will be very relieved at the good work that has clearly been achieved between the American and Russian governments."

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