Second team of chemical weapons inspectors heading to Syria
WASHINGTON — A second team of international inspectors will be deployed to Syria as the closely watched effort to disarm President Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons gathers steam, officials said Tuesday.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which monitors the worldwide ban on such weapons, said the move reflected progress since the first team of about 20 inspectors reached Syria last week.
Over the weekend, Syrian officials under OPCW supervision began destroying some of their toxic stockpiles with a goal of dismantling or disabling by Nov. 1 all of its chemical production facilities and equipment used to mix the toxic gases and load them into munitions.
“These developments present a constructive beginning for what will nonetheless be a long and difficult process,” Ahmet Uzumcu, director-general of the OPCW, said in a statement.
Obama administration officials have hailed the commitment shown so far by Assad to adhere to a U.N. Security Council plan to seize or destroy Syria’s toxic stockpiles by mid-2014.
But in a sign of the difficulty of the task ahead, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a letter to the Security Council late Monday that the disarmament effort would need to scale up rapidly and swiftly negotiate a so-called status of forces agreement to allow inspectors to work in Syria, which is in the midst of a bloody civil war.
“Without sustained, genuine commitment by the Syrian authorities the joint mission will fail in its objectives,” Ban’s letter said.
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