BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syria's president vowed Sunday to abide by the U.N. resolution calling for the country's chemical weapons stockpile to be destroyed.
Speaking to Italy's RAI News 24 TV, President Bashar Assad said his government approved of the U.N. Security Council plan to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons program and also agreed to join the international convention that outlaws such arms.
"Of course we have to comply. This is our history to comply with every treaty we sign," he said.
The U.N. resolution, which passed unanimously Friday, aims to strip the Assad regime of its estimated 1,000-ton chemical arsenal by mid 2014. It also calls for consequences if Syria fails to comply, though the council would have to pass another resolution to impose any penalties.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the Netherlands, which is responsible for destroying the chemicals, said Sunday that an initial group of 20 inspectors would leave for Syria today.
For the first time, the Security Council also endorsed a road map for a political transition in Syria adopted by key nations in June 2012, and it called for an international peace conference to be convened "as soon as possible" to implement it.
In the interview, Assad brushed aside a question about whether he would personally attend talks in Geneva, saying the framework of the negotiations is still unclear. He said he is willing to hold a dialogue with the political opposition to try to resolve the crisis, but not with armed groups trying to overthrow his government.
The agreement to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons was prompted by the deadly poison gas attack Aug. 21 near Damascus. The United States blamed the Assad regime and threatened to launch punitive missile strikes while the Syrian government accused the rebels of being behind the attack.