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Syria chemical weapons equipment destroyed: OPCW inspectors

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has overseen the destruction of all of Syria's chemical weapons-making equipment, officials say.

Un weapons experts in damascusEnlarge
(Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

All of Syria's declared chemical arms production equipment has been destroyed ahead of a key Friday deadline, the world's chemical weapons watchdog said.

"Syria has completed rendering inoperable its chemical weapons production and assembly installations," the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said in a statement on Thursday.

Inspectors had until Friday to visit all of Syria's chemical sites and destroy all production and filling equipment in accordance with a timeline laid down by the Hague-based OPCW and backed by a UN Security Council resolution passed last month.

The resolution, which requires Syria's chemical arsenal completely destroyed by mid-2014, was agreed by the US and Russia to avert military strikes on Syria after deadly chemical weapons attacks outside Damascus in August, which the West blamed on President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

"The joint OPCW-UN Mission has inspected 21 of the 23 sites declared by Syria, and 39 of the 41 facilities located at those sites," the watchdog said, adding that two sites could not be visited for security reasons.

"But Syria declared those sites as abandoned and that the chemical weapons programme items they contained were moved to other declared sites, which were inspected," the OPCW added.

"The Joint Mission is now satisfied that it has verified — and seen destroyed — all of Syria's declared critical production and mixing/filling equipment," it said.

OPCW Director General Ahmet Uzumcu has submitted his first monthly report on Syrian disarmament to the organisation's Executive Council, which is to meet to discuss it on November 5.

In it, Uzumcu says that Syria provided information on 41 chemical weapons facilities at 23 sites, including eight mobile filling units, according to a copy seen by AFP.

Syria said it had approximately 1,290 tonnes of chemical weapons and 1,230 unfilled chemical munitions, meaning shells, rockets or mortars.

"In addition, the Syrian authorities have reported finding two cylinders not belonging to them, which are believed to contain chemical weapons," the document said, without elaborating.

It also said that Syria has named a deputy foreign minister as pointman for the disarmament programme. Syria's deputy foreign minister is Faisal Muqdad.

The OPCW said that it had so far received four million euros ($5.5 million) in contributions to the destruction programme, from Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the US.

Other countries have pledged 2.7 million euros, while President Assad has said the programme will cost around one billion dollars overall.

A first monthly report of the inspectors, covering their work on the ground since October 1, has been sent to the UN Security Council by UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

The OPCW's Executive Council will use the Syrian declaration to decide by November 15 on "destruction milestones" for Syria's arsenal.

Syria has also sent in a declaration of its chemical weapons activities and facilities, meeting its obligations as a new state party to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131031/syria-chemical-arms-production-equipment-destroyed