Syria said likely to meet 1st chemical disarmament goal

Oct. 24, 2013 at 2:00 AM
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THE HAGUE, Netherlands, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- The global chemical weapons watchdog says it believes Syria will meet the key early goal of destroying all equipment used to make poison gases and nerve agents.

"We are confident we are going to be able to meet that deadline," Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons spokesman Michael Luhan said of the U.N.-imposed Nov. 1 deadline to destroy the equipment.

"What it means is that they will no longer have the capability to produce any more chemical weapons," Luhan said in remarks quoted by British newspaper The Guardian. "They will no longer have working equipment to mix or fill chemical weapons into munitions."

Under a U.N. Security Council resolution, all chemical production and mixing plants, along with equipment used for filling rockets and shells with nerve agents such as sarin or sulfur mustard gas, must be destroyed by Nov. 1.

The entire arsenal must be destroyed by the middle of next year.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has promised to comply with the resolution.

Norway has said it is considering a request from the United Nations and some U.N. member states, including the United States, to accept the bulk of the chemical-weapons stockpile for destruction on its territory.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to the OPCW Oct. 11.

Luhan, whose agency is not part of the United Nations but cooperates with it, said "low-tech, quick and cheap" methods were being used to crush the heart of Syria's chemical-weapons program by the deadline.

These include filling equipment with concrete and crushing it, sometimes with heavy vehicles, he said, without giving details about which techniques were used where.

Luhan said OPCW headquarters in The Hague expected to receive a complete, official inventory from Damascus Thursday of all Syria's chemical weapons, munitions and production facilities, The Guardian said.

A team of about 60 U.N. staff members and OPCW inspectors has already visited 18 of the 23 chemical-weapons sites Damascus declared, Luhan said.

The inspectors began arriving in Syria Oct. 1 under an agreement brokered by Washington and Moscow for Syria to dismantle its chemical-weapons capability after a poison gas attack Aug. 21 in a Damascus suburb.

Assad has denied U.S. accusations his regime forces were responsible for the attack, which killed hundreds of people.

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