Syria chemical disarmament team begins mission

Syria chemical disarmament team begins mission

DAMASCUS - International disarmament experts were to begin cataloguing Syria's vast arsenal of chemical weapons Wednesday, checking a list of sites provided by Damascus and conducting on the spot tests ahead of its destruction

The 19-strong team from The Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) arrived in Damascus Tuesday to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2118 ordering the elimination of Syria's chemical arsenal by mid-2014.

The mission was to begin work a day after Syria's opposition warned of a "humanitarian disaster" in the Damascus suburb of Moadamiyet al-Sham, one of the areas reportedly targeted in an August 21 sarin attack that killed hundreds of people.

It also comes after Syria's information minister insisted that President Bashar al-Assad would stay in office and could run for another term in elections next year.

Assad's departure is a key demand of the opposition, who insist it must be a pillar of a mooted Geneva peace conference.

The disarmament team includes 19 OPCW inspectors and 14 UN staffers who drove to a five-star Damascus hotel in a 20-vehicle UN convoy from the Lebanese capital, Beirut.

On arrival, the team set up a logistics base.

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