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Kerry warns Syria over chemical weapons


WASHINGTON - Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday warned Syria that it could face punishment by the United Nations Security Council if it fails to surrender its chemical weapons arsenal.

However, the warning was quickly rejected by Russia, a Syrian ally and veto-wielding member of the council.

In an escalation of U.S. threats, Kerry said that if Syria breached its commitment to hand over the deadly chemicals for destruction, the issue would be considered by the Security Council under the provision of the U.N. Charter that can authorize the use of force.

“It is critical that very rapidly all of those chemicals be moved,” Kerry said during an appearance in Berlin with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Faced with the threat of a U.S. attack over accusations that it used the weapons against civilians, Syria committed in November to surrendering its entire arsenal by June 30. But Damascus is now months behind schedule, with less than 5 percent of its chemical warfare agents delivered so far, and the Obama administration this week warned that its foot-dragging was jeopardizing the disarmament deal.