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Syria and Russia pursue chemical weapons remo -

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TIM PALMER: To Syria, which has announced it wants to sign the international chemical weapons ban treaty as it works with Russia on a plan to put its chemical weapons under international supervision and, in doing so, avoid Western military strikes.

Russia had said it would send details of the formula to the United States in the coming hours as the US state secretary John Kerry warned of consequences if it all proves to be simply a delaying tactic.

But the renewed diplomatic momentum behind the Russian-generated plan is putting the US in an increasingly awkward position. After a week and a half of trying to persuade congress and hours before a prime time address by the US president, the White House is now putting plans for a military intervention on ice, as North America correspondent Jane Cowan reports.

JANE COWAN: Despite the rapid fire diplomatic developments, America's top diplomat John Kerry says "nothing has changed" when it comes to the need for congress to support military action.

JOHN KERRY: What's brought us to this discussion at the UN now is the potential of this force and we don't want to take it off the table. It would be dangerous to do that. It would be sucked into something that may not have any capacity to be able to be able to be affected.

JANE COWAN: The Russian proposal to oversee a chemical disarming of the Syrian regime has re-inserted the United Nations into the equation. Syria has offered to declare its chemical stockpiles and sign the international treaty banning their use.

But underscoring the long odds of success in the Security Council, Moscow has already objected to key elements of a resolution France has drafted to enshrine the terms of the agreement. The French will demand individuals responsible for the poison gas attack be put on trial at the International Criminal Court, something Russia says is unacceptable.

And the resolution will preserve the option of military action, which the Russian president Vladimir Putin says has to be renounced for chemical weapons checks to go ahead.

The US secretary of state John Kerry's frustration was obvious as he spoke before the House Armed Services Committee.

JOHN KERRY: This cannot be a process of delay. This cannot be a process of avoidance. There has to be real, has to be measurable, tangible, and it is exceedingly difficult. And if the United Nations Security Council seeks to be the vehicle to make it happen, that cannot be allowed to simply become a debating society.

JANE COWAN: The hint of a diplomatic solution has thrown Capitol Hill into a state of suspended animation. The senate vote to authorise military force is now on hold, while a bipartisan group of senators works on an alternate wording that would only authorise military strikes if a plan for the UN to take control of Syria's chemical stockpiles failed.

The Democratic leader of the senate, Harry Reid.

HARRY REID: If things can be worked out with the international community to get these weapons out of the hands of this madman then I think that's what we should do.

JANE COWAN: That the White House is countenancing such a challenging plan shows the depth of the political hole the US president finds himself in, lacking support at home and from key allies like Britain, abroad.

(Sound of cameras and Barack Obama)

The US president shuffled between meetings as aides adjusted the script for his prime time appeal to the nation, an address originally designed to make the case for a military strike, but now one that will be made as his administration finds itself in the midst of a diplomatic push to avert that strike.

There are reports the president is sending John Kerry to Geneva this week to meet with Russia's foreign minister in an effort to reach a deal.

This is Jane Cowan in Washington for AM.