Watchdog adopts Syria chemical plan

Watchdog adopts Syria chemical plan

The world’s chemical weapons watchdog has adopted a final roadmap for ridding Syria of its arsenal by mid-2014, hours before a deadline expired, a spokesman says.

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“The plan is adopted,” Christian Chartier, a spokesman for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), told AFP on Friday after a meeting of its 41-member Executive Council in The Hague.

Friday was the deadline for the OPCW to agree “destruction milestones” for the more than 1000 tonnes of dangerous chemicals in Syria, according to the terms of a US-Russian deal that headed off US military strikes on President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

The talks at OPCW headquarters in The Hague broke off twice before agreement was reached, as delegates thrashed out the final draft.

A team of UN-OPCW inspectors has been on the ground since October checking Syria’s weapons and facilities.

Destruction of declared chemical weapons production facilities was completed last month and all chemicals and precursors placed under seal, the OPCW said last month ahead of a November 1 deadline backed by a UN Security Council resolution.

Inspectors are working “in an active war zone, in an extreme security situation,” Sigrid Kaag, the joint OPCW-UN mission coordinator, told at Friday’s OPCW meeting.

The joint Russian-US Syrian chemical weapons disarmament plan was endorsed by the UN Security Council in September to head off military strikes in retaliation for the regime’s alleged use of the weapons against its own people after a chemical attack against a Damascus suburb in August left hundreds dead.