AMMAN, Jordan -- A team of 20 experts from the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) arrived in Beirut on Monday en route to Syria, where it will begin accounting for the government's stockpile of chemical weapons, the Lebanese National News Agency reported.
The team's arrival comes as United Nations experts concluded their second mission investigating alleged sarin gas attacks in Syria. On their first trip, in August, the U.N. experts confirmed that the deadly gas had been used in an Aug. 21 attack on a suburb of Damascus, the Syrian capital.
Syrian President Bashar Assad has consistently denied his government's deployment of chemical weapons in the 30-month conflict with armed opposition groups, which has left more than 100,000 people dead. The U.N. hasn't assigned blame, but the United States, France and Britain have all said the evidence points to the government as the perpetrator of the gas attack.
The OPCW experts plan to go to Syria on Tuesday and will "commence verification activities" of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, the organization's director general, Ahmet Ozumcu, said in a statement Friday. That will be a precursor to what will be an "accelerated program of demilitarization" as the weapons are removed and destroyed.
The statement came after the U.N. Security Council issued a resolution calling on Syria to hand over its chemical weapons for destruction by mid-2014. Although the OPCW is not part of the U.N., it is working with the international organization.
Assad has said his government will adhere to all the conditions of the Chemical Weapon Convention and the Security Council resolution. "Of course we have to comply. This is our history to comply with every treaty we sign," he said in a televised interview with Italy's RAI News 24.
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