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Chemical Weapons Watchdog to Begin Syria Inspections Next Week

U.N. chemical weapons experts wearing gas masks carry samples from one of the sites of an alleged chemical weapons attack in the Ain Tarma neighbourhood of Damascus

Damascus – Experts from the world’s chemical weapons watchdog will begin inspecting Syria’s stockpile of toxic munitions by Tuesday, according to an agreement passed in The Hague on Friday. The agreement enables the U.N. Security Council to vote later on Friday on a draft resolution on eradicating Syria’s chemical arsenal.

The decision adopted by the Executive Council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, OPCW, called on members to make cash donations to fund Syria’s fast-tracked destruction operation. The 41-member executive council of the OPCW passed the agreement in meetings that ran past midnight. “It’s done and dusted,” said spokesman Michael Luhan. “It passed by consensus.”

It requests urgent funding to hire inspectors and technical experts to destroy what Western intelligence agencies believe is about 1,000 tonnes of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agents, built up over decades and spread over dozens of locations. 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 $100 million and fewer than 500 staffers. It does not have the manpower to carry out the task without significantly increasing resources.

Experts have said it will be risky and expensive to destroy the chemicals in Syria, where a civil war has killed more than 100,000 people and displaced millions more. Syria has just nine months to do what some countries, including Russia and the United States, have taken more than a decade to do. (Reuters)

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