Chemical weapons watchdog to begin Syria inspections next week

Reuters

* Syria must provide "immediate and unfettered" access

* Destruction of production facilities by Nov. 1

* Syrian to name official for chemical weapons destruction

By Anthony Deutsch

AMSTERDAM, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Experts from the world'schemical weapons watchdog will begin inspecting Syria'sstockpile of toxic munitions by Tuesday, according to anagreement passed in The Hague on Friday.

The agreement enables the U.N. Security Council to votelater on Friday on a draft resolution on eradicating Syria'schemical arsenal.

The decision adopted by the Executive Council of theOrganisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, OPCW,called on members to make cash donations to fund Syria'sfast-tracked destruction operation.

The 41-member executive council of the OPCW passed theagreement in meetings that ran past midnight.

"It's done and dusted," said spokesman Michael Luhan. "Itpassed by consensus."

It requests urgent funding to hire inspectors and technicalexperts to destroy what Western intelligence agencies believe isabout 1,000 tonnes of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agents, builtup over decades and spread over dozens of locations.

An OPCW official said an advance team would head for Syriaon Monday.

Established to enforce the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention,the OPCW has an annual budget of under $100 million and fewer than 500 staffers. It does not have the manpower to carry outthe task without significantly increasing resources.

Experts have said it will be risky and expensive to destroythe chemicals in Syria, where a civil war has killed more than100,000 people and displaced millions more.

Syria has just nine months to do what some countries,including Russia and the United States, have taken more than adecade to do.

UNFETTERED ACCESS

Syria is instructed to provide inspectors with security and"immediate and unfettered" access to all sites. A failure to doso will trigger a meeting by the OPCW's core members within 24hours, the decision says.

The Security Council resolution to be voted on Friday doesnot refer to the use of force as a means to enforce thedestruction plan, a point which Washington had pressed for.

The OPCW inspectors will have 30 days to visit all chemicalweapons facilities declared by Syria to the organisation lastweek, it states.

It is still unclear where and how the chemicals stockpile,the details of which have not been made public by the OPCW, willbe destroyed. For most countries, the process often takes years,but Syria has been given until mid-2014.

The agreement contains roughly the same destructiondeadlines as in a Russian-American deal brokered earlier thismonth. Syria must submit additional details of its arsenal,including munition types, amounts of precursors and toxins, andthe location of all storage and production sites within a week.

Syria will appoint a point person within the Syriangovernment for chemical weapons and must have completed by Nov.1 the destruction of all chemical weapon production andmixing/filling facilities, the decision states.

View Comments (0)