Watchdog: Syria filed chemical arms details

Syria has filed details of its poison gas and nerve agent programme and an initial plan to destroy it to the world’s chemical weapons watchdog, the organisation announced yesterday.

The Organisation 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 on 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”.

Such declarations made to the organisation are confidential. No details of Syria’s programme were released.

Syria already had given preliminary details to the OPCW when it said it was joining the organisation in September. The move warded off possible US 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 dispatched to Syria this month and have visited most of the 23 sites Damascus declared. They have also begun overseeing destruction work to ensure machines used to mix chemicals and fill munitions with poisons no longer function.

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. Syria’s 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 on Friday the country had turned down a US 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.

The announcement came among renewed fighting in Syria. In the Christian town of Sadad north of Damascus, where al Qaeda-linked rebels and soldiers are fighting for control, a rocket smashed into a home and killed five members of a family. At least three women were among the dead, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights. He said it wasn’t clear whether the projectile was fired by Syrian soldiers or the hard-line rebels who have been trying to seize the town for the past week.

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