The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

October 27, 2013

Watchdog: Syria has filed chemical weapon details

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Syria has filed details of its poison gas and nerve agent program and an initial plan to destroy it to the world's chemical weapons watchdog, the organization said 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 already had given preliminary details to the OPCW when it declared it was joining the organization in September. The move warded off possible U.S. military strikes in the aftermath of an Aug. 21 chemical weapon attack on a Damascus suburb. Syria denies responsibility for the deadly attack.

OPCW inspectors were hastily dispatched to Syria this month and have visited most of the 23 sites Damascus declared. They also have begun overseeing destruction work to ensure that machines used to mix chemicals and fill munitions with poisons are no longer functioning.

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

It has not yet been decided how or where destruction of Syria's chemical weapons will happen. Damascus' 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 doesn't have the capabilities to complete the task by the deadlines given.

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