100 specialists tasked to dismantle, destroy Syria's chemical arms

Oct. 8, 2013 at 7:17 AM
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DAMASCUS, Syria, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- The United Nations and the group monitoring the chemical weapons ban will send 100 specialists to Syria to erase its chemical weapons, the United Nations said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a report to the U.N. Security Council, said he would establish a joint mission with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that would be based in Damascus, Syria's capital, and have a staging ground on Cyprus as it completes its task of eliminating Syria's chemical arsenal, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

The report was part of the U.N. Security Council's Sept. 27 unanimous resolution to ensure the Syrian government's compliance with its surprise pledge to rid itself of chemical arms, banned since 1925, that President Bashar Assad's government refused to acknowledge having until last month.

Under Syria's pledge, all chemical arms will be confiscated and destroyed by the middle of 2014.

The Assad government's pledge resulted from diplomatic pressure by the United States and Russia -- Syria's chief ally -- after more than 1,400 Syrians died Aug. 21 in a gas attack, the single largest mass killing of the Syrian civil war.

Ban's report said the Syrian government would be responsible for the destruction of the weapons, which would be overseen by the joint mission, the Times said. The demolition would be conducted in three stages: planning, destruction and verification, Ban said.

Ban said the joint mission seeks "to conduct an operation the likes of which, quite simply, have never been tried before" and would not meet its objectives "without sustained, genuine commitment by the Syrian authorities."

Ban said Syrians began destroying their country's chemical weapons program Sunday under the OPCW advance team's oversight, CNN reported.

Syrian personnel used "cutting torches and angle grinders to destroy or disable a range of items," including missile warheads, aerial bombs and equipment used for mixing and filling.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed satisfaction with the actions so far, the Times said.

"It is a good beginning, and we should welcome a good beginning," Kerry said during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Indonesia.

Putin, who Also is at the APEC summit, said it was realistic to eliminate chemical weapons within a year, ITAR-Tass reported Tuesday.

"Syria will be able to eliminate chemical weapons within a year -- the term, which was determined by U.N. specialists," he said at a news conference. "I don't know, but we trust in international experts for chemical disarmament. Americans and we trust them."

"If U.N. specialists say it can be done within the year, that's so," he said.

Commenting on Assad's fate, Putin said this issue should be resolved by Syrians within the country's sovereignty, not outside forces.

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