Fri, Sep 27, 2013 - Page 1 News List

Syria committed to chemical weapons deal, al-Assad says

AFP, DAMASCUS

A UN flag is seen in a boardroom in the Secretariat building during the UN General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York on Wednesday.

Photo: Reuters

Syria is committed to a deal to hand over its chemical weapons, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview, as major powers inched closer to a UN resolution enshrining the agreement.

The Syrian president, in the interview with Venezuelan television station Telesur broadcast on Wednesday, said he saw “no obstacles” to a plan under which Damascus will relinquish its chemical arms.

His comments came as UN experts arrived in Damascus to resume their investigations into about 14 incidents in which chemical weapons are alleged to have been used.

Al-Assad told Telesur that his government was committed to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which it signed as part of the Russia-US agreement on the destruction of its chemical arsenal.

“Syria is generally committed to all the agreements that it signs,” he said in the interview, which was published in full by the Syrian state news agency SANA yesterday.

He said Damascus had begun to send the required details of its chemical arsenal to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is overseeing the deal, and that OPCW inspectors were expected to visit Syria.

“Experts [from the OPCW] will come to Syria in the coming period to look into the status of these weapons,” he said. “As the Syrian government, there are no serious obstacles.”

“But there is always the possibility that the terrorists will obstruct the work of the experts by preventing them from accessing certain places,” al-Assad said.

The Syrian regime calls all those fighting against it “terrorists.”

Syria agreed to turn over its chemical arsenal under a deal thrashed out following an Aug. 21 sarin attack in the suburbs of Damascus, which killed hundreds of people.

The attack, which occurred as UN chemical weapons experts were in Syria investigating previous alleged chemical attacks, was blamed on the Syrian regime by Washington and other international backers of the Syrian opposition.

Al-Assad’s government denies involvement, but agreed to turn over its chemical arsenal in the face of threatened US military action.

The deal halted talk of a US assault, but al-Assad said it was “the possibility of aggression is always there.”

“This time, the pretext is chemical weapons, next time it will be something else,” he said.

At the UN, the permanent members of the Security Council made progress on a resolution enshrining the chemical weapons deal.

Some Western envoys said important progress has been made on the resolution. One said there was agreement on “the main points” of a text which could be put to the 15-member UN Security Council.

The envoy said it could result in a resolution that allows for a later vote on sanctions under Chapter VII of the UN Charter if Syria fails to honor the Russia-US plan.

However, Russian officials denied that there was any agreement on potential sanctions.

“We’re making progress, but we’re not done yet,” a senior State Department official said.

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