Watchdog: Syria destroys chemical arms equipment
BEIRUT — Syria has destroyed critical equipment for producing chemical weapons and poison gas munitions, the global chemical weapons watchdog said Thursday as fierce clashes raged in the country's north, close to one of the sites where toxic agents are believed to be stored.
The announcement by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons came one day ahead of the Nov. 1 deadline set by The Hague-based organization for Damascus to destroy or “render inoperable” all chemical weapon production facilities and machinery for mixing chemicals into poison gas and filling munitions.
The completion of what is essentially the initial stage of destruction is a significant milestone in an ambitious timeline that aims to destroy all of Damascus' chemical weapons by mid-2014.
Destruction of the equipment means that Syria can no longer produce new chemical weapons.
However, Damascus still has to start destroying existing weapons and stockpiles. The country is believed to have around 1,000 metric tons of chemicals and weapons including mustard gas and the nerve agent sarin.
The announcement came as fighting raged Thursday in the town of Safira, which experts say is home to a chemical weapons production facility as well as storage sites, reported the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
President Bashar Assad's troops have been battling rebels, many of them linked to al-Qaida groups, in Safira for weeks. The Observatory said there were casualties on both sides Thursday but had no specifics.
The fighting underscored the dangers the chemical weapons' inspectors face as they race against tight deadlines in their mission to rid Syria of the toxic arsenal in the midst of an ongoing civil war.
A statement from the OPCW, which works closely with the United Nations, said its team was “now satisfied that it has verified — and seen destroyed — all of Syria's declared critical production and mixing/filling equipment.” It added that, “no further inspection activities are currently planned.”
Earlier this week, the inspectors said they had completed their first round of verification work, visiting 21 of 23 sites declared by Damascus. They were unable to visit two sites because of security concerns, the inspectors said.
On Thursday, OPCW said the two locations were, according to Syria, “abandoned and ... the chemical weapons program items they contained were moved to other declared sites, which were inspected.”
It was not immediately clear if the facility in Safira was one of the two sites that OPCW inspectors were not able to visit.
Syria has submitted a plan for the total destruction of its chemical weapons that has to be approved next month by the OPCW's executive committee.
“I salute the fortitude and courage you've all demonstrated in fulfilling the most challenging mission ever undertaken by this organization,” the watchdog's director-general, Ahmet Uzumcu, said in comments released by the OPCW.
Syria's conflict has killed more than 100,000 people and forced some 2 million more to flee the country. Now in its third year, the civil war pits the primarily Sunni Muslim rebels against Assad's government and its security forces, which are stacked with members of his Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
In other developments, the Observatory's chief Rami Abdurrahman said there had been a strong explosion Wednesday inside an air defense facility in Syria's coastal province of Latakia. The cause of the blast was not known, he said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Man barricaded in house near West Hempfield Elementary School
- Pirates cut 12, including outfielder Tabata and pitcher Lincoln
- Penguins’ protracted slump continues with 5-2 loss at Carolina
- First trailer for Pittsburgh-shot ‘Southpaw’ hits the Internet
- Norwin teacher, daughter of superintendent, charged with selling heroin
- Aldi to open store where Bottom Dollar closed in Garfield
- Yough senior high students evacuated for third time this week
- Freshman arrested in Burrell High School bomb threat
- Bodies of Kochu, Gray found in Ohio River in West Virginia
- Port Authority secures free North Shore light-rail service
- Bomb threat clears Apollo-Ridge High School