Sat, Sep 28, 2013 - Page 7 News List

OPCW discusses Syrian chemical arms

DISARMAMENT RULES:The organization’s plan calls for all Syrian chemical weapons to be destroyed by the middle of next year. However, it will need more personnel to do so

AFP, THE HAGUE, Netherlands

Inspection of Syrian chemical weapons sites with a view to their destruction must start by Tuesday, says a draft decision to be discussed by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) yesterday.

Besides weapons locations declared by Damascus as part of a deal to head off threatened military strikes, inspectors will also be able to visit “any other site identified by a State Party as having been involved in the Syrian chemical weapons programme,” the draft document seen by reporters says.

However, the draft says that such matters could be resolved through “consultations and cooperation” and that the OPCW director general Ahmet Uzumcu can deem claims of hidden chemical weapons as “unwarranted.”

The OPCW’s 41-member council met yesterday in The Hague to discuss the draft, which lays out what US Secretary of State John Kerry has called the “rules and regulations” of Syrian chemical disarmament, which Damascus has signed up to.

The draft also calls on OPCW members to make cash donations to fund Syria’s fast-tracked destruction operation

The draft was scheduled to be voted on last night. It needs a simple majority to be passed, but decisions at the body are normally agreed upon by consensus.

Syria agreed to give up its chemical weapons as part of a US-Russian agreement made earlier this month, worked out as Washington threatened military action in response to an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack outside Damascus.

In cases of non-compliance with the plan, which sees all Syrian chemical weapons and facilities destroyed by the middle of next year, the OPCW will discuss the allegation and “bring the issue or matter ... directly to the attention of the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Security Council.”

Syria is required to supply further details on its chemical weapons stockpile within seven days of the OPCW draft being adopted, it said.

All Syrian chemical weapons facilities must be inspected no later than 30 days after the document is adopted.

The OPCW’s executive council is to decide on “intermediate destruction milestones” by Nov. 15, it said, calling also on Syria to provide “immediate and unfettered right to inspect any and all sites.”

The OPCW shall “as soon as possible and in any case not later than October 1 initiate inspections in the Syrian Arab Republic pursuant to this decision.”

Syria is also required to designate a liaison official for the OPCW and “provide him or her with the authority necessary to ensure that this decision is fully implemented.”

The OPCW meeting comes after the US and Russia agreed a draft UN Security Council resolution on Syria’s chemical weapons on Thursday, breaking a prolonged deadlock.

The 15-member Security Council was also scheduled to vote on the resolution yesterday, after the OPCW meeting.

An OPCW official said an advance team would head for Syria on Monday.

Established to enforce the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, the OPCW has an annual budget of under US$100 million and less than 500 staff. It does not have the manpower to carry out the task without significantly increasing resources.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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