Chemical weapons removal begins in Syria
UN inspectors began work on Sunday to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal as part of a deal between the US and Russia, struck last month.
The process of destroying stockpiles and equipment is now under way according to the UN.
A team from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was allowed into the country this month. They followed weapons inspectors who arrived in Syria following the killing of hundreds of civilians near Damascus. Videos of the attack led to international outrage and increased pressure on the Assad regime to destroy its chemical arsenal.
A UN official who works alongside the inspectors said: “Today is the first day of the phase of destruction and disabling. Verification will also continue.”
According to the Associated Press, he added: “The plan was that two types … of materials would be destroyed: one is equipment for making weapons, filling and mixing equipment, some of it mobile and some of it static. The other is actual munitions.”
Experts argue that the operation might prove challenging as the weapons are scattered around the country. 1000 tons of chemical weapons are believed to be in Syria, one of the largest stockpiles in the world.
Under a Security Council resolution in September, the first stage is to destroy Syria’s capability to produce chemical weapons by November 1st.
In an interview in a state-run newspaper on Sunday, Assad said the Syrian regime had begun producing chemical weapons in the 1980s to “fill the technical gap in the traditional weapons between Syria and Israel”. He said production of chemical weapons was halted in the late 1990s, but provided no further information.
UN inspectors are now expected to dismantle and ultimately destroy Syria’s chemical weapons by mid-2014.