Weapons inspectors in Syria have uphill battle

Oct. 23, 2013 at 10:24 AM
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DAMASCUS, Syria, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- While Syria is cooperating, a team of experts on the ground has an uphill fight to meet a 2014 deadline to eliminate its chemical weapons cache, officials said.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, based in The Hague, Netherlands, said last week its inspectors in Syria visited more than a dozen chemical weapons sites and destroyed "critical equipment" tied to Syria's chemical weapons program.

Sigrid Kaag, special coordinator of the joint OPCW-United Nations mission, said from Damascus the Syrian government was cooperating with the mission. An "expeditious destruction" of Syria's weapons stockpile may be difficult, she said.

"The time frames are challenging given the goal of the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons program in the first half of 2014," she said in a statement Tuesday.

In a mission update Monday, the OPCW said its inspectors in Syria have visited 17 different sites and made 14 of them inoperable. It didn't say how many sites there were overall.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Kaag, a veteran from the U.N. Development Program, to serve as the envoy for a joint mission last week.

U.N. inspectors in August confirmed the nerve agent sarin was used as a weapon of war in Syria. Inspectors were not mandated to assess blame.

Ban said the progress on eliminating Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles doesn't equate to a resolution of what he said remains a very dangerous situation.

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