By John Irish and Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council is set to adopt a resolution on Friday on eradicating Syria's chemical arsenal after Russia and the United States overcame a bitter deadlock to avert U.S. military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.

Amid newfound unity of the veto-wielding council members - Russia, China, France, the United States and Britain - French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he hopes a date will also be agreed on Friday for so-called Geneva 2 peace talks on Syria.

"I hope we will be able to set a date so that Geneva 2 can finally take place because the only solution is political. We moved forward on the chemical side but people are continuing to kill each other on the ground," Fabius told reporters.

The five big U.N. powers are due to meet Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and international Syria mediator Lakhdar Brahimi later on Friday on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly.

Diplomats said if a date was set for the peace talks in Geneva, it would likely be for November, as October appeared too ambitious.

Assad agreed to destroy Syria's chemical weapons following global outrage over a sarin gas attack in the Damascus suburbs last month - the world's deadliest chemical attack in 25 years.

Western powers blame Assad, while Assad's government and its close ally, Russia, say the rebels were responsible for the attack.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is due to vote at 10 p.m. (2000 GMT) on Friday on a draft deal that will send experts into Syria to inspect the stockpile of toxic munitions. The vote by the 41 member organization's executive committee paves the way for a Security Council vote in New York.

The five big U.N. powers ended weeks of diplomatic deadlock on Thursday by agreeing a draft Security Council resolution - based on a deal reached by Moscow and Washington earlier this month - that demands Syria give up its chemical weapons.

U.N. diplomats said the full 15-member Security Council was expected to vote on the resolution at 8 p.m (0000 GMT) on Friday. It will also be the first time the council formally endorses a plan for a political transition in Syria agreed at an international conference in Geneva in June 2012.

Until recently, the council has been paralyzed on how to deal with the Syrian civil war. Russia, backed by China, has vetoed three resolutions since October 2011 that would have condemned Assad's government and threatened it with sanctions.

RUSSIAN VICTORY?

Western powers on the Security Council conceded they had backed away from many of their initial demands during negotiations. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov claimed a victory, saying Moscow had stood its ground on the issue of the threat of military force to strengthen the resolution.

A major sticking point had been Russia's opposition to writing the resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, which covers the its authority to enforce its decisions with measures such as sanctions or military force.

The compromise draft resolution makes the measure legally binding, but provides for no means of automatic enforcement if Syria fails to comply, as the United States, Britain and France had originally wanted.

"No concessions have been made," Ryabkov told Voice of Russia radio. "The main thing is that the automatic use of Chapter 7 has been ruled out."

France's Fabius told reporters: "We shall see in the coming days and weeks if the Russians are really coherent with what they proposed and the vote ... we will need to be vigilant on the action or inaction of Syria."

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, described the draft resolution as "very significant" because, when adopted, it would be the first time during the conflict that the council has imposed binding obligations on Assad's government.

"Taking chemical weapons away from a regime that just used chemical weapons ... is a very intense form of accountability," Power said on Thursday. "I don't think anybody can discount the role that the threat of limited military action played in expediting and catalyzing this conversation."

U.S. President Barack Obama has asked Congress to authorize the use of limited military strikes to punish Assad for the Damascus gas attack. The deal between Russia and the U.S. to rid Syria of its chemical weapons averted those strikes for now.

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said he was pleased the draft resolution called for "accountability" for those responsible for the chemical attacks. He added, however, that he would have liked a direct reference to the International Criminal Court in The Hague - something diplomats said Russia opposed.

To impose further measures, like sanctions or military action, on the Syrian government for non-compliance with the chemical weapons deal the Security Council would need to agree on a second resolution.

The United Nations says more than 100,000 people have been killed in the civil war, after the government tried to crush pro-democracy protests, and more than half of Syria's 20 million people need help.

(Reporting by John Irish and Michelle Nichols.; Editing by Lesley Wroughton and Christopher Wilson)

 

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