Assad: One year, US$1 bn needed to destroy chem arms
By Dave Clark, AFPDefiant strongman Bashar Al-Assad promised he would surrender Syria's chemical weapons but warned it would take at least a year to do so and cost one billion US dollars.
September 19, 2013, 2:32 pm TWN
His latest appearance came as UN envoys debated a draft resolution that would enshrine a joint US-Russian plan to secure and neutralize his banned weapons in international law.
In a confident interview with US network Fox News, Assad insisted that Syria was not gripped by civil war but was the victim of infiltration by foreign-backed Al-Qaeda fighters.
He insisted that his forces had not been behind an August 21 gas attack on the Damascus suburbs that left hundreds of civilians dead, but vowed nevertheless to hand over his deadly arsenal.
It was Assad's second interview this month with US television, and one of a series of meetings with Western journalists to counter mounting political pressure from Western capitals.
After last month's barrage of sarin-loaded rockets, which Western capitals say was clearly launched by the regime, US President Barack Obama called for US-led punitive military strikes.
But -- with US lawmakers and the Western public not sold on the virtues of another Middle East military adventure -- Assad's ally Russia seized the opportunity to propose a diplomatic solution.
Pushed by President Vladimir Putin, the White House agreed to hold fire while Russia and the international community -- with Assad's agreement -- draws up a disarmament plan.
Assad reiterated his pledge to cooperate, but insisted he had not been forced to do so by US threats of US action.
"I think it's a very complicated operation, technically. And it needs a lot of money, about a billion," he told Fox.
"So it depends, you have to ask the experts what they mean by quickly. It has a certain schedule. It needs a year, or maybe a little bit more."