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EU welcomes Syria proposal, urges swift work on details

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(BRUSSELS) - EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Tuesday welcomed a proposal for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons arsenal and called for it to be finalised "as quickly as possible".

"I welcome the proposal for the Syrian regime to hand over its chemical weapons and to place them under international control," Ashton said in a statement.

"This now needs to be fully worked up as quickly as possible including the details of its implications in terms of safe storage, verification and destruction."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called on the Syrian regime to hand over control of its chemical weapons and have them destroyed.

Ashton said the 28-nation bloc stood ready "to fully support any proposal and its implementation".

She also welcomed France's intention to propose a UN resolution later Tuesday demanding that Syria place the weapons under international control or face military action.

The bloc urged Syria to join the Chemical Weapons Convention and to ratify the Biological Weapons Convention "as a matter of urgency".

"We look to the Syrian authorities to take full responsibility for ensuring that their chemical weapons are stored securely pending independently verified destruction and are not permitted to fall into the hands of any other state or non-state actor," she added.

Ashton said she also hoped to see a resumption of efforts towards a political solution to the Syrian conflict.

Earlier, the EU executive, the European Commission, announced the immediate release of 58 million euros (77 million dollars) destined to help refugees from the Syrian conflict in Lebanon.

The Commission said it was sending 40 million euros to Lebanon through UN agencies and 18 million euros to help provide services such as water and sanitation.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees last week said more than two million Syrians have fled Syria since the beginning of the conflict in March 2011.

More than 720,000 Syrian refugees were registered or being registered in Lebanon, a country of some 4.5 million people.

Around 52 percent of the refugee population is aged under 17.

The EU aid is part of a 400-million-euro package announced in June to help address the humanitarian crisis.

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