[QODLink]
Middle East

Disarmament team begins Syria mission

Task to eliminate Assad's chemical stockpiles begins as advance team arrives in Damascus.

Last Modified: 02 Oct 2013 13:59
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback

A chemical weapons disarmament team has arrived in Damascus to begin evaluating the country's arsenal of the banned weapons.

The inspectors from The Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons travelled by road from Lebanon on Tuesday, a day after UN experts departed after probing a series of alleged chemical attacks. 

The team of 19 inspectors will begin a complex mission of locating and dismantling an estimated 1,000-tonne chemical arsenal as the civil war rages in Syria.

"In the coming days, their efforts are expected to focus on verifying information provided by the Syrian authorities and the initial planning phase of helping the country destroy its chemical weapons production facilities," a UN statement said.

They have about nine months to complete their task to have the Syrian regime destroy its chemical stockpile by mid-2014.  

The team was unable to fly to Damascus, because the road between the airport and the city is the scene of frequent fighting.

The group replaces an outgoing UN team of chemical arms experts that has ended its second mission to Syria to probe seven alleged gas attacks and hopes to present a final report by late October.

Earlier this month it submitted an interim report that confirmed the use of the nerve agent sarin in August 21 attacks on the outskirts of Damascus.

The United States threatened military action in response, accusing forces loyal to Assad of deliberately killing hundreds of civilians with rocket-delivered nerve agents.

Syria denied the allegations, but agreed to relinquish its chemical arsenal, effectively heading off a strike, under a US-Russian deal which was enshrined in the landmark UN resolution.

"At this point, we have absolutely no reason to doubt the information provided by the Syrian regime," an OPCW official said on Sunday.

In his first comments since the UN resolution was passed on Friday, President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday told Italy's Rai News 24 his regime "will comply".

The Syrian conflict has killed more than 115,000 people since March 2011, according to figures released on Tuesday by the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 

359

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Israel's Operation Protective Edge is the third major offensive on the Gaza Strip in six years.
Muslims and Arabs in the US say they face discrimination in many areas of life, 13 years after the 9/11 attacks.
At one UN site alone, approximately four children below the age of five are dying each day.
Featured
Absenteeism among doctors at government hospitals is rife, prompting innovative efforts to ensure they turn up for work.
Marginalised and jobless, desperate young men in Nairobi slums provide fertile ground for al-Shabab.
The Khmer Rouge tribunal is set to hear genocide charges for targeting ethnic Vietnamese and Cham Muslims.
'I'm dying anyway, one piece at a time' said Steve Fobister, who suffers from disabilities caused by mercury poisoning.
The world's newest professional sport comes from an unlikely source: video games.
join our mailing list