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      Syrian Rebels Reject U.S.-Russia Initiative

      "We cannot accept any part" of the initiative to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons, says Free Syrian Army head.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 9/15/2013, 6:32 AM

      Syrian rebels take aim near Damascus
      Syrian rebels take aim near Damascus
      Reuters

      The head of Syria's rebel Free Syrian Army rejected on Saturday a U.S.-Russian deal to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons by mid-2014.

      "We cannot accept any part of this initiative," General Selim Idriss told reporters in Istanbul, according to the AFP news agency.

      He preceded that by saying, "We in the Free Syrian Army are unconcerned by the implementation of any part of the initiative... I and my brothers in arms will continue to fight until the regime falls."

      Idriss spoke shortly after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced after three days of talks an agreement that would see Syria's vast chemical arsenal removed and destroyed by mid-2014.

      "Are we Syrians supposed to wait until mid-2014, to continue being killed every day, and to accept (the deal) just because the chemical arms will be destroyed in 2014?" asked Idriss.

      "We respect our friends (in the international community), and we hope our friends understand our position... We cannot accept this initiative because it ignores... the massacres of our people," he stated.

      The Kerry-Lavrov breakthrough came in the wake of U.S. and French threats to strike the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad for allegedly using chemical arms near Damascus on August 21 that killed hundreds.

      Damascus has accused the rebels of the attack.

      The strike plans were put off after Russia proposed that Damascus hand over its chemical arms to international supervision, to which Assad agreed.

      Idriss also accused Russia of plotting with Damascus to find a safe exit for Assad.

      "When the regime agreed to hand over the weapons, it recognized its crime. So should the weapons be handed over, without handing over the criminal," he asked.

      "I call for Bashar Al-Assad to be dragged to the International Criminal Court today because he is a criminal."

      The Obama administration welcomed Saturday’s agreement on Syria but made clear that the use of military force is still an option.

      Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham criticized the U.S.-Russia agreement, calling it “meaningless” and saying it sends the wrong signal to Iran, which is suspected of  building a nuclear weapon.