Inspectors had visited 18 of the 23 chemical weapons sites declared by Damascus
The world’s chemical weapons watchdog says it is confident that Syria will meet an important early milestone in its disarmament, the November 1 deadline for destroying all equipment used in the production and mixing of poison gases and nerve agents.
Michael Luhan, a spokesman for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said the Syrian government had provided complete co-operation with the 27 weapons inspectors in the country.
Mr. Luhan said the inspectors had visited 18 of the 23 chemical weapons sites declared by Damascus, and that a complete, official, inventory of all Syria’s chemical weapons, munitions, and production facilities, was expected to be delivered to the OPCW headquarters in the Hague in the next 24 hours.
Furthermore, he said Syria was expected to meet next Friday’s deadline laid down by the OPCW executive council for the destruction of all equipment involved in the production and mixing of chemical weapons as well machinery used for filling munitions with mustard gas, sarin or other poison agents.
“We are confident we are going to be able to meet that deadline,” Mr. Luhan said. “What it means is that they will no longer have the capability to produce any more chemical weapons. They will no longer have working equipment to mix or fill chemical weapons into munitions.” He said “low tech, quick and cheap” methods were being used, such as filling equipment with concrete, smashing it, sometimes using heavy vehicles. He could not give details on which techniques were used where.
According to an OPCW timetable backed up by a U.N. Security Council resolution passed last month, Syria must complete the destruction of its entire arsenal by the middle of next year. Norway has confirmed it is considering a request to accept the bulk of the stockpile for destruction on its territory.
Norway’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Ragnhild Imerslund told the Associated Press that her country would not accept filled munitions but might accept mixed chemicals and precursors for nerve agents.
The U.N. has informed Norway that Syria has 50 tonnes of mustard gas and up to 500 tonnes of nerve agent precursors.
Mr. Imerslund said Oslo was consulting environmentalists, military and legal experts and others over the decision. No destruction sites had yet been chosen.
Mr. Luhan would not comment on Norway’s announcement but said the OPCW executive council would make a decision about a destruction plant at a meeting in the Hague mid-November. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2013
November 1 is deadline for destroying all equipment used in the production and mixing of poison gases.