Iran welcomes Russian plan on Syria arms: Spokeswoman

TEHRAN - Iran "favourably welcomes" a Russian plan to head off threatened US strikes on Syria by securing a deal to destroy the regime's chemical weapons, the foreign ministry spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Marzieh Afgham told a media conference in Tehran that the proposal should include the destruction of chemical weapons in the hands of rebel groups fighting to topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"The Islamic republic of Iran favourably welcomes the (Russian) initiative which aims at halting all military action" against Syria, Afgham said.

"We want our region to be cleared of all weapons of mass destruction ... These efforts should also target the chemical weapons in the hands of Syria's rebel groups," she added.

Iran is Syria's chief regional ally and has repeatedly warned that any US-led strikes against the Damascus regime could ignite widespread conflagration.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday urged Damascus to "place chemical weapons under international control and then to have them destroyed."

Speaking in Moscow, Syria's Foreign Minster Walid al-Muallem welcomed the Russian move, though it was not immediately clear if a still defiant Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would give his assent.

US President Barack Obama, who has been trying to drum up support at home and abroad for his plan to launch punitive strikes against Assad's regime for its suspected use of chemical weapons, reacted by saying the Russian plan could be a "significant breakthrough".