Watchdog: Syria has filed chemical weapon details

October 27, 2013

Syria has filed details of its poison gas and nerve agent program — and an initial plan to destroy it — with the world’s chemical weapons watchdog, the organization announced Sunday.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said in a statement that Syria completed its declaration as part of a strict and ambitious timeline that aims to eliminate the lethal stockpile by mid-2014.

The group, based in The Hague, said Syria made the declaration Thursday. The announcement provides “the basis on which plans are devised for a systematic, total and verified destruction of declared chemical weapons and production facilities,” the group said.

Such declarations made to the organization are confidential. No details of Syria’s program were released.

Syria had given preliminary details to the OPCW in September when it said it was joining the Chemical Weapons Convention. The move warded off possible U.S. military strikes in the aftermath of an Aug. 21 chemical weapon attack in the Damascus suburbs. The Syrian government denies responsibility for the deadly attack.

OPCW inspectors were hastily dispatched to Syria this month and have visited most of the 23 sites that Damascus declared. They have also begun overseeing the destruction of machines used to mix chemicals and fill munitions with poisons.

Syria is thought to possess about 1,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, including mustard gas and sarin.

It has not been decided how or where Syria’s chemical weapons will be destroyed. Syria’s declaration includes a general plan for destruction that will be considered by the OPCW’s 41-nation executive council on Nov. 15.

Norway’s foreign minister announced Friday that the country had turned down a U.S. request to receive the bulk of Syria’s chemical weapons for destruction because it does not have the capabilities to complete the task by the deadlines given.

The announcement came amid renewed fighting in Syria. In the Christian town of Sadad north of Damascus, where al-Qaeda-linked rebels and soldiers are fighting for control, a rocket struck a home and killed five members of a family, activists said.

At least three women were among the dead, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The group’s director, who uses the pseudonym Rami Abdulrahman, said it wasn’t clear whether the projectile was fired by Syrian soldiers or the hard-line rebels who have been trying to seize the town for the past week.

Abdulrahman said the rocket strike occurred overnight Friday. His organization obtains its information from a network of activists on the ground.

— Associated Press

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