THE HAGUE, Netherlands, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Syria met a key benchmark of destroying all facilities where chemical weapons are produced and mixed, the international chemical weapons watchdog said Thursday.
By doing so, Syria met the deadline set by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Executive Council to "complete as soon as possible and in any case not later than [Nov. 1], the destruction of chemical weapons production and mixing/filling equipment," the organization said in a statement issued from its headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands.
The eight inspectors of the Joint OPCW-U.N. Mission returned to OPCW headquarters from Syria where they've been inspecting and verifying Syria's declared sites since Oct. 1.
They inspected 21 of the 23 sites and 39 of the 41 facilities at those sites, the statement said. The two remaining sites were not visited because of safety and security concerns. Syria declared those sites were abandoned and chemical weapons material they held had been moved to other declared sites that were inspected, the OPCW said.
"The joint mission is now satisfied that it has verified -- and seen destroyed -- all of Syria's declared critical production and mixing-filling equipment," the statement said. "Given the progress made in the Joint OPCW-U.N. Mission in meeting the requirements of the first phase of activities, no further inspection activities are currently planned."
The next milestone will be Nov. 15 by which time the OPCW executive council must approve a detailed plan submitted by Syria to eliminate its chemical weapons stockpile.
Syria agreed to destroy its chemical arms arsenal to avoid threatened U.S. and French military strikes after a chemical weapons attack Aug. 21 in a Damascus suburb killed hundreds of people. The United States and its allies accused forces loyal to President Bashar Assad while Assad blamed the rebels.
Under the time table, Syria's chemical weapons stockpile will be destroyed by mid-2014.