Damascus, 1 October
A chemical disarmament team crossed into Syria today to begin the daunting task of inventorying the country&’s arsenal of the banned weapons in readiness for its destruction.
The team from the Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons arrived in Syria a day after the departure of a team of UN inspectors, who had been investigating a series of alleged chemical attacks. Syria&’s information minister meanwhile insisted that President Bashar al-Assad would stay in office and that he had the option to run for another term in elections next year.
Mr Assad’s departure is a key demand of the opposition, who insist it must be a pillar of a mooted peace conference in Geneva.
The team of 20 inspectors from the Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is implementing a UN resolution ordering the elimination of Syria’s arsenal.
The operation to rid Syria of chemical weapons by a target date of mid-2014 will be one of the largest and most dangerous of its kind.
The arsenal is believed to include more than 1,000 tons of sarin, mustard gas and other banned chemicals stored at an estimated 45 sites across the war-torn country.
The outgoing UN team of chemical weapons experts is probing seven alleged gas attacks and hopes to present a final report by late October.