Syria pounds rebels as Moscow lauds Damascus for chemical disarmament

REUTERS AND AFP, NUSA DUA, Indonesia and the Hague

Wed, Oct 09, 2013 - Page 1

Russia and the US agree on how to eliminate chemical weapons in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday after meeting US Secretary of State John Kerry.

“We have a common understanding of what needs to be done and how,” Putin told reporters at the APEC summit in Indonesia.

International experts charged with starting the process of verifying and eliminating chemical weapons arrived in Syria earlier this month.

Putin praised Syria for cooperation on the plan to destroy its chemical arsenal, a deal brokered by Moscow and Washington last month amid a possibility of US military strikes against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Putin said he believed experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) would be able to accomplish their goal of ridding Syria of its chemical arms within a year.

The team of experts, supported by the UN, aim to oversee destruction of the Syria’s chemical weapons production and mixing equipment by Nov. 1, and deal with all chemical weapons materials by the end of June next year. It said yesterday it will deploy a second team of inspectors to bolster its capacity.

OPCW director-general Ahmet Uzumcu briefed diplomats at the meeting on progress made so far.

He confirmed Syria was cooperating with the OPCW-UN mission and had on Sunday begun destroying chemical weapons.

Meanwhile, in Syria, regime war planes bombed rebels spearheading an assault against military bases.

The fighting in Idlib Province began on Monday, when rebels launched an operation against the Wadi al-Deef and Hamidiyeh bases.

About 25 rebel brigades joined forces for the assault, which sparked fierce fighting around the opposition-held town of Maaret al-Numan, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that 10 regime troops and five rebels had been killed in the clashes.