Chemical weapons chief reports on Syria mission
The Hague (Netherlands): The chief of the global chemical weapons watchdog briefed member states on Tuesday on progress in the high-stakes, high-risk mission to rid Syria of its poison gas stockpile.
Ahmet Uzumcu, director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, spoke to the group`s 41-nation Executive Council at the start of a four-day meeting in The Hague as inspectors continued their mission in Syria to verify and destroy the country`s estimated 1,000-ton chemical arsenal in the midst of a two-year civil war.
Details of the briefing were not immediately available but a press conference was scheduled later in the day.
A group of experts who were among the first into Syria last week has already returned to the OPCW headquarters to report on their talks with officials from President Bashar Assad`s regime in Damascus.
Uzumucu`s briefing came a day after United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon revealed key details of the unprecedented UN-OPCW mission.
In a letter to the Security Council obtained by The Associated Press, Ban recommended yesterday that approximately 100 UN and OPCW staff make up the mission.
Ban said that the international community`s aim of destroying Syria`s chemical weapons program by mid-2014 will require "an operation the likes of which, quite simply, have never been tried before," with greater operational and security risks because of the speed required.
In Syria, teams of weapons inspectors were seen leaving their Damascus hotel in several UN-marked vehicles today morning. It was not clear where they were headed and what their task for the day was.
On Sunday and for the first time since the mission began last week, Syrian personnel working under the supervision of the OPCW experts began destroying the country`s chemical arsenal and equipment used to produce it.
The joint OPCW-UN mission to scrap Syria`s chemical program stems from a deadly August 21 attack on opposition-held suburbs of Damascus in which the UN has determined the nerve agent sarin was used. Hundreds of people were killed, including many children.
The US and Western allies accuse the Syrian government of being responsible, while Damascus blames the rebels.
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