"If the American administration is ready to pay this money and take the responsibility of bringing toxic materials to the United States, why don't they do it?" Assad said in an interview.

Assad again denied his forces were responsible for a chemical weapons attack in Ghouta, outside Damascus, on August 21. Vladimir Putin also reiterated Russia's contention that the attack was staged by opponents of Assad.

The United States says the attack killed more than 1,400 people, including more than 400 children.

UN chemical investigators confirmed on Monday the use of sarin in a long-awaited report that the United States, Britain and France said proved government forces were responsible. Logistics as to how the deal to destroy the chemical weapons would be implemented have been murky.

Russia and the United States are the only countries with industrial-scale capacity to handle mustard, VX, sarin or cyanide-armed munitions, but the import of chemical weapons is banned under US law.

Russia has been destroying its own Soviet-era chemical weapons in line with an agreement with the United States and has seven facilities for the destruction of chemical weapons, according to information on Russian Munitions Agency website. But Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Thursday that Russia had no current plans to destroy Syrian chemical weapons on its territory.

Asked whether Russia had such plans, Shoigu told a news agency: "No. A decision needs to be taken for this."

Speaking in Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also said it was essential for keeping momentum in the diplomatic and political process that the military option remained on the table.

The violence that has cost more than 100,000 lives in Syria in the past 2 1/2 years continued on Thursday. Near the Turkish frontier, al Qaeda-linked fighters battled a rival Syrian rebel group for a second day after the militant Islamists stormed a nearby town and prompted Turkey to shut a border crossing.

Elsewhere, a roadside bomb killed at least 14 members of Assad's minority Alawite sect in the central Syrian province of Homs, a Syrian opposition monitoring group said.


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