WASHINGTON (CNN) - Syria on Monday embraced a Russian proposal for Bashar al-Assad to put his nation's chemical weapons under international control as part of an effort to head off a possible military strike by the United States over an alleged poison gas attack.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem told reporters in Moscow on Monday that his nation "welcomes" a statement from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who said his country would urge Syria to take that step if it would avert a U.S. military response.
"During our talks with Foreign Minister Lavrov this morning, he launched an initiative related to chemical weapons. I listened carefully to his statement this evening in regards to that. I declare that the Syrian Arab Republic welcomes Russia's initiative, on the basis that the Syrian leadership cares about the lives of our citizens and the security in our country. We are also confident in the wisdom of the Russian government, which is trying to prevent an American aggression against our people," Moallem said.
The comments came as Secretary of State John Kerry also seemed to endorse a similar scenario.
Assad "could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week," Kerry said during a news conference with British Foreign Secretary William Hague. "But he isn't about to do it and it can't be done obviously."
Kerry made the remark in London during the final leg of a trip that also included stops in Lithuania and France.
But the State Department sought to clarify Kerry's comment, and a U.S. official called the secretary of state's remarks a "major goof."
"Secretary Kerry was making a rhetorical argument about the impossibility and unlikelihood of Assad turning over chemical weapons he has denied he used," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
A U.S. official said the proposal isn't a serious option.
"There is no one in the administration who is taking this Syria proposal seriously," the official said, calling Kerry's remarks a major goof and saying the secretary of state "clearly went off script here."
The Obama administration says the al-Assad government was responsible for the August 21 chemical weapons attack outside Damascus that it said killed more than 1,400 people.
President Barack Obama is seeking congressional approval for a military strike in response but is so far meeting resistance from lawmakers and the public, concerned about the United States again intervening militarily in a foreign crisis.
Syria has been engulfed in a civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people over the past two years, according to U.N. estimates.
Kerry's point "was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts can not be trusted to turn over chemical weapons, otherwise he would have done so long ago," Psaki said.
"That's why the world faces this moment."
Kerry is due to participate in a classified briefing about Syria to members of the House of Representatives after his return from London later on Monday.