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US 'pleased' with Syria progress

US secretary of state John Kerry has said that the United States and Russia are "very pleased" with the progress made so far in destroying Syria's chemical weapons stocks.

Mr Kerry, speaking at a press conference with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in Indonesia, said Syrian president Bashar Assad's regime deserved credit for its compliance with the UN Security Council resolution calling for the elimination of the weapons.

He added that Assad was not off the hook, but needs to continue to comply with UN demands.

Mr Kerry said it was "extremely significant" that the first weapons were destroyed yesterday, just a few weeks after the resolution passed the UN. "It is a good beginning, and we should welcome a good beginning," he said.

Mr Kerry and Mr Lavrov met today on the sidelines of an economic summit on the Indonesian resort island of Bali. Their meeting represented the first high-level talks between the two nations since they sealed a deal to secure and destroy Syria's chemical weapons.

International disarmament inspectors began work yesterday to destroy Syria's estimated 1,000-ton stockpile of chemical weapons. They are up against a November 1 deadline set by the United Nations last month to destroy the Assad government's capability to produce the weapons.

Mr Kerry and Mr Lavrov also discussed Iran and its nuclear programme. Officials from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the US, China, Russia, France and the UK - and Germany will meet representatives from Iran in Geneva on October 15 to hold renewed talks on the country's nuclear programme.

Tehran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful and says it is enriching uranium to levels needed for medical isotopes and reactor fuel.

Western powers, including the US, fear Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb and have imposed crippling economic sanctions to encourage the country to curb its enrichment program.



From Belfast Telegraph