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World powers reach deal on removal of Syrian chemical weapons

A file photo of a citizen journalism handout image provided by the Local Committee of Arbeen is said to show U.N. weapons inspectors collecting samples during investigations in Syria in August.Local Commitee Of Arbeen / Hando / EPA

World powers have reached a deal to compel Syria to hand over its chemical weapons — a resolution that includes enforcement language but is not explicit on military action, diplomatic sources told NBC News on Thursday.

The United States and Russia have been at odds on how to force the handover. Those two countries negotiated the deal, and France played a large role in helping come up with compromise language, the sources said.

The deal includes a resolution with so-called Chapter 7 authority, a reference to a United Nations provision that allows member countries to take military and nonmilitary action to confront threats to peace and security.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power confirmed the resolution on Twitter, saying that the measure was going to the full U.N. Security Council on Thursday night. Officials said they hope a vote could happen as early as Friday evening.

"The draft UNSCR establishes that #Syria's use of CW is threat to international peace & security & creates a new norm against the use of CW," another tweet from @AmbassadorPower said.

A senior State Department official called the agreement "a breakthrough arrived at through hard-fought diplomacy," adding it was unthinkable just two weeks ago.

"This is historic and unprecedented because it puts oversight of the Assad regime's compliance under international control and it's the first UNSCR to declare that the use of chemical weapons is a threat to peace and security " the official said. "Equally as important, it makes absolutely clear that failure of the Assad regime to comply will have consequences."

The U.S. and Russia reached agreement earlier this month on the outlines of a plan to rid Syria of chemical weapons. Syria satisfied the first part of the plan last week, when it gave the world a catalog of its weapons stockpile. 

The agreement envisions the removal of chemical weapons from Syria by the middle of next year. The destruction of the weapons would be a joint mission between the U.N. Security Council and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

President Barack Obama had threatened a military strike on Syria to punish its president, Bashar Assad, for using chemical weapons in an Aug. 21 attack on a rebel-held neighborhood in the Syrian civil war.

Secretary of State John Kerry met Thursday with Wang Yi, the foreign minister of China, and a senior State Department official later told reporters that China backed a “mandatory and binding U.N. Security Council resolution” enforcing the handover of the chemical weapons.

The official would not go into detail about China’s position on how such a resolution would be enforced.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters that the draft resolution needed refining, but he expressed he optimism about a deal.

“Things have advanced,” he said, according to The Associated Press.

Catherine Chomiak and Jeff Black of NBC News contributed to this report.