Syrian leader Bashar al Assad has said he is committed to destroying his stockpile of chemical arms – but warned it would take a year to do so.

In an interview with Fox News, Mr Assad said he was committed to getting rid of the arsenal but conceded it would cost at least £600m ($1bn).

And he also challenged America to foot the bill.

“It needs a lot of money, it needs about one billion (US dollars),” he told the US crew at the presidential palace in Damascus.

“If the American administration is ready to pay those money, and to take responsibility of bringing toxic materials to the United States, why don’t they do it?”

Mr Assad also insisted that his decision to destroy the weapons was not forced upon him by the threat of US strikes.

He said destroying the weapons was “a very complicated operation, technically”.

“So it depends, you have to ask the experts what they mean by quickly. It has a certain schedule,” he said.

“It needs a year, or maybe a little bit more.”

Mr Assad also said a UN report that found “clear and convincing evidence” of a sarin nerve gas attack in Syria last month is “unrealistic”, and denied responsibility for it.

“Sarin gas is called kitchen gas,” he said.

“You know why? Because anybody can make sarin in his house. Any rebel can make sarin.

“Second, we know that all the rebels are supported by governments. So any government that would have such chemical can hand it over.”

He also used the one-hour interview to criticise the American stance in the Syrian crisis.

He said that, unlike Russia, Washington had tried to get involved in Syria’s leadership and governance.

Mr Assad’s comments came after a senior Russian diplomat said Damascus would stick to its commitment to eliminate its chemical weapons by mid-2014.

After talks in Syria, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Mr Assad was “very serious” about the disarmament plan.

source:  Skynews