Bumpy road to destruction of Syria chemical weapons: experts

Bumpy road to destruction of Syria chemical weapons: experts
An activist wearing a gas mask is seen in the Zamalka area, where activists say chemical weapons were used by forces loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad in the eastern suburbs of Damascus August 22, 2013.

THE HAGUE - The US-Russian deal brokered Saturday to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons will be difficult if not impossible to implement, experts said, not least because of the quandary of their destruction.

The landmark deal thrashed out in Geneva gives Syria a week to hand over details of his regime's stockpile, which it aims to destroy by mid-2014 in order to avert US-led military strikes.

But chemical weapons expert Jean Pascal Zanders said that timetable is irrelevant because decision-making now passes to the Executive Council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Based in The Hague, the OPCW is charged with implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria asked to join amid growing calls for military action against Damascus.

"The Executive Council has sovereign decision-making, and the US and Russia just have one vote each among the 41 members, so I wouldn't be surprised if we don't have consensus decision-making," Zanders told AFP.

"All deadlines proposed in the bilateral document (in Geneva) will only start running once the (Executive Council) decision has been taken," said Zanders, who runs a consultancy and blog dedicated to disarmament.

The OPCW's Executive Council is currently set to meet on Wednesday, but a source close to the matter said that date might be pushed back to Thursday or Friday.

Even once inspectors are deployed and stockpiles are found, they face the practical problem of destruction, said Olivier Lepick of the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris.

"You have to build a factory that costs several hundreds of millions of dollars to then be able to destroy the chemical weapons," Lepick told AFP.

In Iraq, weapons inspectors used innovative but problematic methods to destroy Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, Zanders said.

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