| UNITED NATIONS
UNITED NATIONS Aug 27 A joint mission of the
United Nations and the global anti-chemical arms watchdog that
has overseen the destruction of Syria's toxic gas stocks will
shut down on Sept. 30 though a successor unit will continue
investigating, the U.N. chief said.
Last week the Pentagon said a specially equipped U.S. ship
had finished neutralizing all 600 metric tons of the most
dangerous of Syria's chemical weapons components surrendered to
the international community this year to avert threatened air
With the bulk of the elimination work completed, U.N.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote to the president of the
Security Council, British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, that a
joint mission of the U.N. and Organization for the Prohibition
of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) would shut down next month.
"With the completion of the destruction of all declared
priority chemical weapons materials, and following consultations
with the Director-General of the OPCW, we will bring the Joint
Mission to a close on 30 September 2014," Ban wrote in the
letter, obtained by Reuters on Wednesday.
"Successor arrangements will be in place at that time to
ensure a seamless transition," Ban added. He did not elaborate
as details of the arrangements were still being worked out.
In a monthly report on Syria attached to Ban's letter, the
OPCW said that its own fact-finding team was "continuing its
work to establish the facts surrounding the allegations of the
use of toxic chemicals, reportedly chlorine, for hostile
purposes in the Syrian Arab Republic."
A U.N. commission of inquiry on Wednesday accused the Syrian
government of dropping barrel bombs on civilian areas, a war
crime under international law. The bombs included some believed
to contain the poison gas chlorine in eight incidents in April,
the investigators said in their latest report.
Ban said that until Syria's entire chemical weapons program
has been eliminated he would continue to use his authority to
monitor compliance with a Security Council resolution from last
year that demanded the elimination of all Syrian poison gas
stocks and production facilities.
Syria agreed last September to a Russian proposal to give up
its chemical weapons to avert threatened military strikes by the
United States and France, which accused the Syrian leadership of
using the arms against opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.
An August 2013 sarin gas attack in a Damascus suburb killed
well over 1,000 people, including many women and children, the
worst chemical weapon attack in a quarter century. The
government and rebels blamed each other for the incident.
Western powers blame Assad for the attack while Russia says
rebels were likely responsible.
Ban said negotiations with the OPCW and Syria on
arrangements for the destruction of 12 remaining chemical
weapons production facilities were still underway.
Western members of the Security Council have long voiced
concerns about ambiguities and discrepancies in Syria's original
declaration of its poison gas arsenal, which Damascus submitted
last year to the OPCW.
Syria's civil war is now in its fourth year.
(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Tom Brown)