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Syria: Inspectors prepare to destroy chemical weapons

UN chemical weapons experts leave country as separate disarmament group moves in to take next step against banned arsenal.

A member of the UN chemical weapons team in Syria.
A member of the UN chemical weapons team in Syria.
Image: Aka Sellstrom/AP Photo

UN EXPERTS HAVE wrapped up their investigation of seven alleged chemical attacks in Syria as disarmament teams prepare to visit the country to inspect its arsenal of banned weapons.

The six-person team of chemical weapons experts, which is on its second mission to Syria to investigate alleged attacks, is scheduled to leave the country today.

The team hopes to present the final report on the alleged attacks by late October, following an interim report submitted this month which confirmed the use of the nerve agent sarin in an attack in the suburbs of Damascus on 21 August.

Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

A separate team of around 20 inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is due in Damascus tomorrow to begin inspecting Syria’s arsenal ahead of its destruction. They will visit all production and storage sites that Syria has identified, with details of more locations to be provided by Friday.

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has insisted his country will comply with a UN resolution under which his regime must turn over its chemical weapons for destruction.

In his first comments since the resolution was passed on Friday, Assad told Italy’s Rai News 24 on Sunday that his regime “will comply.”

“Of course we will comply with it, and history proves that we have always honoured all treaties we have signed.”

Assad also said warming relations between the United States and Syria’s ally Iran could benefit Damascus and the region, “so long as the United States is honest”, but said that most European countries “are unable” to play a role in the much-delayed peace conference on Syria which is now being planned for mid-November in Geneva.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon pressed for the conference during his first meeting Saturday with Syria’s opposition National Coalition chief Ahmad Jarba, who said he was ready to send a delegation to the meeting, a UN spokesman said.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR meanwhile said it had dispatched 44 containers of aid, containing sleeping mats, tarpaulins and other items, from Dubai to Syria to assist displaced people in difficult-to-reach areas. It is the largest such shipment from Dubai this year and is expected to reach Syria in about a month.

Violence on the ground has continued, with at least 16 people, including 10 students, killed when a regime air raid hit a high school in the northern rebel-held city of Raqa.

© AFP, 2013

Read: Irish troops arrive in Syria for UNDOF mission after three week delay

More: UN votes to order destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons >

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