Syria gov't says it will not ensure inspectors' safety in conflict zones

The Syrian government will not ensure the safety of U.N. and international chemical weapons inspectors in areas where President Bashar al-Assad's regime and rebels are fighting, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said Monday.

In an interview with Kyodo News, Mekdad said inspectors from the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons should protect themselves in conflict zones.

A team of the inspectors began work Sunday to destroy Syrian military assets related to chemical warfare such as rockets used in chemical weapons attacks. They are aiming to eliminate all Syrian chemical weapons by the middle of 2014.

The deputy foreign minister added many of the chemical weapons and related facilities are in areas controlled by the Assad regime.

Mekdad said Syria has been cooperating with the inspection and the government will not be responsible if the mid-2014 deadline for the elimination of chemical weapons is not met.