WASHINGTON -- International inspectors expect to destroy Syria’s ability to produce new chemical weapons by Nov. 1, the first major deadline in the United Nations-ordered disarmament of the country's entire chemical arsenal, officials said Wednesday.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the watchdog group overseeing the disarmament effort, said equipment used to produce or mix toxic gases and nerve agents has been destroyed at almost all of the declared facilities inside Syria.
OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan said Syrian authorities continued to provide “complete” cooperation to its team of 27 inspectors, and the group was confident of meeting the first major milestone in the disarmament plan before Friday of next week.
Syria “will no longer have the capability to produce any more chemical weapons, and it will no longer have any working equipment to mix and to fill chemical weapons agent into munitions,” Luhan told a news conference in the Hague.
The positive report reflected continuing progress in the U.S.-backed plan to destroy, dismantle or impound President Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile by mid-2014.
Since arriving in Syria this month, OPCW inspectors, escorted by Syrian forces, have visited 18 of 23 chemical weapons sites disclosed by Assad’s government and have had “good access” to the facilities in government-controlled areas, Luhan said.
But inspectors have yet to visit any sites located in areas held by rebels battling to overthrow Assad, Luhan said. Last week, the head of the OPCW, Ahmet Uzumcu, said that inspectors had to cancel a visit to at least one abandoned site in a rebel-held zone because they were unable to obtain security guarantees.
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