France seeks U.N. resolution on Syria chemical arms

PARIS (Reuters) - France sought to seize the diplomatic initiative on Syria on Tuesday, saying it would push for a U.N. resolution setting out terms for the destruction of its chemical weapons and warning of "serious consequences" if it resisted.

The announcement by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius came a day after a surprise proposal by Russia that its Syrian ally hand over its chemical weapons stocks in a move that could avert possible U.S. military strikes.

Fabius said the proposed resolution would be under Chapter 7 of the U.N.'s charter covering the possible use of military action to restore peace and would require Damascus to reveal "without delay" the extent of its chemical program and place it under international control for dismantlement.

"The Russian foreign minister made an offer ... This cannot be used as a maneuver to divert us," said Fabius, whose country has been a strong backer of action including possible strikes against Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad's forces.

"That is why we have decided to take this initiative. France will put forward a resolution at the U.N. Security Council in this sense and the procedure starts today."

"All options remain on the table," he added.

Western officials have expressed skepticism about the Russian proposal, fearing it could simply be a delaying tactic aimed at averting strikes but offering no real prospect of resolving a civil war which sprung from a March 2011 uprising.

The draft resolution would include an explicit condemnation of an August 21 chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus which the United States says came from Assad's forces and killed more than 1,400 people.

It would also contain a call for those behind the attack to be punished at the International Criminal Court.

Fabius said he was looking to schedule visits to China later this week and Russia early next week for talks with the two veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council.

(Reporting by Mark John; Editing by Nicholas Vinocur and James Regan)

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