As the US begins talks on Russia's proposal to place Syria's chemical weapons under international control, Russia rejects a draft resolution drawn up by France authorising force.

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President Obama spoke by phone earlier with French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron about the proposal.

A White House offical said: "They agreed to work closely together, and in consultation with Russia and China, to explore seriously the viability of the Russian proposal to put all Syrian chemical weapons and related materials fully under international control in order to ensure their verifiable and enforceable destruction."

"These efforts will begin today at the United Nations, and will include a discussion on elements of a potential UN Security Council resolution."

The news comes after the Syrian government accepted a Russian proposal to put its chemical weapons under international control.

France is drawing up a draft UN resolution aimed at forcing Syria to make public its chemical weapons programme and place it under international control.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that France will start the resolution process under chapter seven of the UN charter, which is militarily enforceable.

The proposal would also condemn a chemical weapons attack that western powers allege was carried out by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime - a claim he has denied.

Russia reacted by rejecting wording authorising force, with President Vladimir Putin saying the proposal "can work only if we hear that the American side and all who support the United States in this sense reject the use of force".

Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said: "We held a very fruitful round of talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov... and he proposed an initiative relating to chemical weapons. And in the evening we agreed to the Russian initiative."

Mr al-Moualem said Syria had agreed because this would "remove the grounds for American aggression".

'Delaying tactic'

David Cameron warned that the plan must not be a "distraction" from ensuring that action is taking in response to the use of nerve gas against civilians near Damascus on 21 August.

Mr Cameron told a panel of senior MPs the plan was "an interesting proposal", adding: "If it is a serious one, then it is one we should take very seriously, because it could achieve a major goal we have as a Government - to get rid of chemical weapons."

He added: "It is important to make sure that this isn't some delaying tactic, that this isn't some ruse.

"In the resolution, I think it's quite important that we have some clarity about thresholds, we need to know that there's a proper timetable for doing this, we need to know that there would be a proper process for doing it, and crucially there would have to be consequences if it wasn't done."

Russia said it was working on an "effective, concrete" plan for putting Syria's chemical weapons under international control.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia was discussing the details with Damascus and that the plan would be presented to other nations soon.

He also said that the proposal to take the weapons out of President Assad's control grew out of contacts with the US.

President Putin and President Obama discussed the idea on the sidelines of a G20 summit last week, President Putin's spokesman said on Tuesday.

'Significant breakthrough'

President Obama said he will put his plans for a military strike against Syria on hold, if the Assad regime places all its chemical weapons under international control.

As congress debates the US president's plan for a "limited, narrow strike" against the Syrian government's infrastructure, Mr Obama said the Russian plan could be a "significant breakthrough".

In an interview with ABC News, President Obama said he welcomed the idea "with a grain of salt, initially".

"My objective here has always been to deal with a very specific problem," he said. "If we can do that without a military strike, that is overwhelmingly my preference."

In an interview with NBC he added: "But we have to be sceptical because this is not how we've seen them operate over the last couple of years."

'International control'

Mr Lavrov said: "If the establishment of international control over chemical weapons in that country would allow avoiding strikes, we will immediately start working with Damascus.

"We are calling on the Syrian leadership to not only agree on placing chemical weapons storage sites under international control, but also on its subsequent destruction and fully joining the treaty on prohibition of chemical weapons."

'Expect everything'

The initiative also follows the airing of an interview with President Assad on US television on Monday. In the interview, Assad said the US government did not have any evidence his government was behind a chemical weapons attack in Damascus.

He also refused to confirm or deny if he had chemical weapons, but said if he did they would be under central control.

He also warned the US to "expect everything" if a missile strike was launched on Syria, alluding to retaliation from a range of groups.

Iran, Syria's main ally in the Middle East, welcomed the Russian proposal.

A spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry said: "The initiative that was expressed by Moscow regarding putting an end to the Syrian crisis at this stage, the Islamic Republic of Iran favours that initiative and we find this to be within the framework of putting a halt to militarism in the region."

As congress debates the US president's plan for a "limited, narrow strike" against the Syrian government's infrastructure, Mr Obama has said the Russian plan to take the weapons out of Assad’s control could be a "significant breakthrough".

Vladimir Putin's government proposed the idea on Monday, and on Tuesday Iran said it backed the idea.

In an interview with ABC News, President Obama said he welcomed the idea "with a grain of salt, initially".

"My objective here has always been to deal with a very specific problem," he said. "If we can do that without a military strike, that is overwhelmingly my preference."

In an interview with NBC he added: "But we have to be sceptical because this is not how we've seen them operate over the last couple of years."

'International control'

The idea to place Syria's chemical weapons facilities under international control, which could also lead to the destruction of such weapons, was put forward by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov following a meeting with his Syrian counterpart, Walid al-Moallem.

Mr Lavrov said: "If the establishment of international control over chemical weapons in that country would allow avoiding strikes, we will immediately start working with Damascus.

"We are calling on the Syrian leadership to not only agree on placing chemical weapons storage sites under international control, but also on its subsequent destruction and fully joining the treaty on prohibition of chemical weapons."

Mr al-Moallem said that Syria "welcomes Russia's initiative, based on the Syrian's government care about the lives of our people and security of our country".

'Expect everything'

The initiative also follows the airing of an interview with Assad on US television on Monday. In the interview, Assad told NBC reporter Charlie Rose that the US government did not have any evidence his government was behind a chemical weapons attack in Damascus.

He also refused to confirm or deny if he had chemical weapons, but said if he did they would be under central control.

He also warned the US to "expect everything" if a missile strike was launched on Syria, alluding to retaliation from a range of groups.

Iran, Syria's main ally in the Middle East, welcomed the Russian proposal.

A spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry said: "The initiative that was expressed by Moscow regarding putting an end to the Syrian crisis at this stage, the Islamic Republic of Iran favours that initiative and we find this to be within the framework of putting a halt to militarism in the region."

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