Chemical weapons watchdog says Syria cooperating with mission

THE HAGUE Wed Oct 9, 2013 10:48am EDT

1 of 4. A U.N. convoy arrives at a hotel where experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are staying, in Damascus October 9, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Syrian officials have been constructive and cooperative in the early stages of the program to destroy Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, the head of the global chemical weapons watchdog said on Wednesday.

Ahmet Uzumcu, director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said that experts aimed to visit 20 sites in the coming days and weeks, and could eliminate Syria's chemical weapons by mid-2014 if they won support from all sides in its civil war.

"The cooperation has been quite constructive and I would say the Syrian authorities have been cooperative," Uzumcu told a news conference in The Hague, where the OPCW is based.

"If we can ensure cooperation by all parties, and if some temporary ceasefires could be established in order to permit our experts to work in a permissive environment, I think the targets could be reached."

Syria submitted a declaration of its chemical weapons arsenal to the OPCW last month but the details have not been disclosed. Chemical weapons experts believe Syria has roughly 1,000 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve gas, some of it stored as bulk raw chemicals and some of it already loaded onto missiles, warheads or rockets.

Under a Russian-U.S. deal struck last month, Syria must render useless all production facilities and weapons-filling equipment by November, a process begun over the past week. Its entire chemical arms program must be eliminated by mid-2014.

Most of the chemical agents are believed to be stored in territory under the control of forces loyal to President Bashar al Assad, who has pledged to ensure the safety of dozens of OPCW experts conducting verification activities in a war zone.

The team in Syria, now consisting of 27 field experts, will enter only those areas where inspectors will be safe, said Malik Ellahi, political adviser to director general Uzumcu. "The OPCW will only go and conduct its mission if it is assured security."

For the field team's access to areas where hostilities are continuing, the Syrian government and the United Nations will need to negotiate ceasefires with rebel forces.

"We are confident of the ability of our colleagues in the U.N. to work with all groups within Syria to create those conditions," Malik said. "If we don't get clearance, we won't move."

An OPCW official speaking on condition of anonymity said the chemical sites believed to be now in rebel-held or contested territory were mostly emptied before fighting started there, but they would still need to be inspected at some point to ensure they were no longer being used.

Roughly 100 experts from the chemical weapons regulator will be required to carry out the labor-intensive procedure of either incinerating or chemically neutralizing toxic agents used for warfare.

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Comments (3)
Yep….and Assad gets away with conventional war continuing to kill and maim his own people without impunity. what a travesty!

Oct 09, 2013 11:40am EDT  --  Report as abuse
SameNameHere wrote:
I wonder where all the warmonger obama haters are now. This is really good news and it didn’t require U.S. military intervention.

Crickets.

Oct 09, 2013 12:22pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
TruWorldPeace wrote:
This is proof that Assad is not a madman or butcher as we were told. Unfortunately we still have a lot of war mongering hotheads and madmen in the West. And Western media must be starving now, as they get nothing from Syria to feed their smear campaign against the Syrian government.

Oct 09, 2013 2:41pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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