UN leader Ban Ki-moon on Monday called for the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons in internationally supervised safe zones.
Ban told reporters he may propose the zones to the UN Security Council if UN inspectors confirm the use of the banned weapons. He said it would also be a bid to overcome the 15-nation council's "embarrassing paralysis" over the Syria conflict.
"I am considering urging the Security Council to demand the immediate transfer of Syria's chemical weapons and chemical precursor stocks to places inside Syria where they can be safely stored and destroyed," Ban said.
His announcement came after Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged Syria to place its chemical weapons under international supervision to head off the threat of a western military strike.
Syria welcomed the initiative.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has also said Syria should hand over its chemical arms.
Ban welcomed the Russian idea and said Syria should "agree to these proposals" and added that there would be "very swift action" by the international community to make sure the stocks are destroyed.
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But Ban warned that "first and foremost Syria must agree positively to this."
Ban said the divided Security Council -- where Russia has blocked western attempts to put pressure on President Bashar al-Assad over the 30-month-old civil war -- would have no choice but to act if UN inspectors confirm the use of sarin gas in an August 21 attack.
The United States, Britain and France say Assad's forces carried out the attack in which more than 1,400 people died, according to a US toll. The Assad government, backed by Russia, says opposition rebels carried out the attack.
A UN team led by Swedish expert Ake Sellstrom is working on a report on whether chemical arms, banned under international law, were used.
If the use is confirmed "then this would be an abominable crime, and the international community would certainly have to do something about it," Ban said.
"Two and half years of conflict in Syria has produced only embarrassing paralysis in the Security Council," he added in a new attack on the divisions between the major powers.
Ban said the confirmed use of chemical arms "would surely be something around which the Security Council could unite in response."
"There would be a need for accountability, both to bring to justice those who used them ... and to deter anyone else from using these abhorrent methods of warfare," Ban said.