WASHINGTON -- International inspectors may arrive in Syria as early as Tuesday to begin probing President Bashar Assad's chemical weapons program, according to a draft decision released Friday by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
The Hague-based organization endorsed a U.S.-Russia plan to destroy all of Assad's toxic arsenal by mid-2014 and called on Syria to allow inspectors "immediate and unfettered access" to all of its chemical sites.
The draft decision, which was to be discussed at a meeting of the organization later Friday, came a day after the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council agreed on a resolution that legally requires Assad to relinquish his toxic stockpiles, believed to include 1,100 tons of sarin, mustard gas, VX and other agents.
Russia blocked U.S. efforts to make noncompliance by Assad punishable by military force.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed on Sept. 14 to a broad plan to force Syria to relinquish its chemical arms. The deal called for inspections to begin at some point in November, so inspections next week sharply accelerates the timetable.
The OPCW draft decision notes the "extraordinary character" of launching inspections in Syria, which is in the midst of a civil war in which U.S. officials accuse Assad's forces of using sarin gas against opposition strongholds.