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Regime's request is absurd, Baird says

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ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Canada's foreign minister John Baird is calling Syria's offer to begin providing information on its chemical arsenal 30 days after it signs an international convention banning such weapons "ridiculous and absurd."

Baird said Syrian President Bashar Assad should not be given extra time. Baird said: "This is a man, who up until a week ago denied that they had any such weapons."

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who joined Baird at a news conference Saturday in Istanbul, also expressed skepticism, saying Assad was playing for time while continuing to commit atrocities.

The comments come as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov were in Geneva negotiating a Russian proposal to inventory, isolate and eventually destroy Syria's chemical weapons stocks.

They announced an agreement on a framework to secure and destroy Syria's chemical weapons by mid-2014 and impose UN penalties if the Assad government fails to comply.

Davutoglu said Turkey welcomed the diplomatic initiative to remove Syria's chemical weapons, but it was still incumbent on the international community to bring to justice the Syrian officials responsible for crimes against humanity.

Western countries blame Assad for the use of chemical weapons, although he denies the charge and has accused rebels engaged in a two-year-old civil war against his government of using lethal chemical agents.

Canada and Turkey have both called for a strong international response to the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb that U.S. President Barack Obama said killed more than 1,400 civilians, nearly a third of them children.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 15, 2013 A4

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