Syria chemical weapons equipment ‘destroyed or inoperable’

Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has inspected 21 out of 23 sites

United Nations  vehicles transporting a team of experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, leave their hotel in Damascus last week.  Photograph: Reuters

United Nations vehicles transporting a team of experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, leave their hotel in Damascus last week. Photograph: Reuters

Thu, Oct 31, 2013, 16:54

Syria has destroyed or rendered inoperable all of its declared chemical weapons production and mixing facilities, meeting a major deadline in an ambitious disarmament programme.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which won the Nobel Peace prize this month, said its teams had inspected 21 out of 23 chemical weapons sites across the country.

The other two were too dangerous to inspect, but the chemical equipment had already been moved to other sites that experts had visited, it said.

Syria “has completed the functional destruction of critical equipment for all of its declared chemical weapons production facilities and mixing/filling plants, rendering them inoperable,” it said, meeting a November 1st deadline for the work.

The next target date is November 15th, by when the OPCW and Syria must agree to a detailed plan of destruction, including how and where to destroy more than 1,000 metric tonnes of toxic agents and munitions.

Under a deal brokered by Russia and the United States, Damascus agreed to destroy all its chemical weapons after Washington threatened to use force in response to the killing of hundreds of people in a sarin attack on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21st.

It was the world’s deadliest chemical weapons incident since Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces used poison gas against the Kurdish town of Halabja 25 years ago.

The United States and its allies blamed the forces of President Bashar al-Assad for the attack and several earlier incidents. Assad has rejected the charge, blaming rebel brigades. “This was a major milestone in the effort to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons program,” Ralf Trapp, an independent chemical weapons disarmament specialist, said.

“Most of the sites and facilities declared by Syria to the OPCW have been inspected, their inventories verified, equipment for chemical weapons production disabled and put beyond use, and some of the unfilled weapons have also been disabled.”

The OPCW mission is being undertaken in the midst of Syria’s 2-1/2 year civil war, which has killed more than 100,000 people. There had been concerns that the violence would impede the disarmament, but the OPCW says Syrian authorities have been cooperating with the weapons experts.

At one location it could not visit, the OPCW said it was able to verify destruction work remotely, while Syrian forces had abandoned the two sites it did not inspect.

Syrian authorities said that “the chemical weapons programme items removed from these sites were moved to other declared sites”, an OPCW document said.

“These sites holding items from abandoned facilities were inspected.”

Reuters

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