| THE HAGUE
THE HAGUE Oct 17 The world's chemical weapons
watchdog is confident it will be able to meet deadlines to
destroy Syria's toxic stockpile even though some sites are in
disputed or rebel-held territory, a special adviser to the
organisation's director general said.
Inspectors from the Hague-based Organisation for the
Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which won the Nobel
Peace Prize last week, have visited nearly half of more than 20
sites declared by Damascus, Malik Ellahi, special adviser to
Director General Ahmet Uzumcu, said on Thursday.
"We are on track. The team is confident, the morale is high
and cooperation from the Syrian authorities has been
forthcoming," he said.
Under a Russian-American brokered deal, Syria has until Nov.
1 to destroy or render unusable all chemical agent production
and weapon filling facilities. Ellahi said the team had been
"making good progress in making those sites inoperable" by
destroying equipment and facilities.
The OPCW expects to be able to access sites, including in
rebel-held territory, with a joint U.N. mission negotiating
ceasefires with forces fighting against the government of
President Bashar al-Assad, he said.
"In terms of the security situation there are always
concerns, but the team so far has had the cooperation of the
Syrian authorities and managed to conduct its work unimpeded,"
Details of Syria's programme have not been made public, but
experts and Western intelligence agencies have said it has 1,000
metric tonnes of chemical weapons, including sarin, mustard and
VX nerve agent.
"What we have verified so far has been according to the
disclosure" of chemical weapons submitted to the OPCW by Syria,
Ellahi told reporters in The Hague. "We have not found anything
of significance which we should be worried about."
Dozens of inspectors on the ground were working in dangerous
conditions, with shells and explosive devices having gone off
near their hotel in Damascus in recent days, he said.
By mid-2014 Syria must have destroyed its entire chemical
weapons stockpile, including all munitions, bulk chemical stores
and research facilities.
Discussions were underway with parties in the conflict to
gain access to sites in sensitive locations. "They are still
working on those issues," he said.