WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama says he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin about a potential plan for Syria to turn over its chemical weapons to international control.
Syria has welcomed an idea floated Monday for it to hand over chemical weapons for destruction to avoid a U.S. military strike. The public proposal from Russia followed what seemed to be an offhand remark by Secretary of State John Kerry. The U.N. secretary-general also backs the idea.
Obama tells PBS' "NewsHour" that he and Putin did speak about it last week while Obama was in St. Petersburg, Russia, for an economic summit. Obama and Putin had an impromptu chat Friday for about 20 minutes.
Obama says it was a continuation of previous conversations he's had with Putin about securing Syria's chemical weapons.
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama says a proposal to put Syria's chemical weapons under international control to avoid U.S. military strikes could be a potential breakthrough.
Obama told NBC News in an interview Monday that he remains skeptical that Syria will follow through and turn over its stockpile, so he's taking a statement from Damascus, quote, "with a grain of salt initially." But he says he would prefer to have a diplomatic solution to the crisis rather than launch a military attack, and called it "a potentially positive development."
Secretary of State John Kerry suggested earlier Monday that Syria could avoid a potential U.S. air attack by putting its chemical weapons under international control. Syria's ally Russia quickly took the idea to Syria's foreign minister, who said Damascus welcomes the proposal.
The Senate is delaying a test vote on authorizing U.S. military strikes against Syria.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says it wouldn't be beneficial to hold the vote while international discussions continue regarding Syria's use of chemical weapons.
Reid says it's not important to, quote, "see how fast we can do this." He adds, "We have to see how well we can do this."
Reid's action Monday comes amid increased opposition in the Senate to a U.S. military intervention in Syria.
The Nevada Democrat had planned a full Senate vote Wednesday. It's unclear when that might happen now.
The White House says President Barack Obama has spoken with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper about chemical weapons use in Syria.
The two leaders talked by phone Monday as Obama was seeking congressional approval for a military strike in Syria but also was considering a potential deal for Syria to turn over its weapons stockpiles to avoid a U.S. strike.
The White House says Obama and Harper agreed there must be a strong international response to chemical weapons use to ensure that similar atrocities won't occur in the future.
Canada is among two dozen countries that have signed a joint statement blaming the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad for using chemical weapons in an attack last month outside Damascus. The statement doesn't explicitly call for military action.