Syria chemical weapons inspections to start by Tuesday

Syria chemical weapons inspections to start by Tuesday

THE HAGUE - International inspectors will get to work eradicating Syria's chemical arsenal by next week, once the world's chemical weapons watchdog approves a US-Russian roadmap drawn up to avert military strikes.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons' (OPCW) Executive Council will meet at 2000 GMT in The Hague to discuss the draft, which will be incorporated in a UN Security Council resolution expected to be passed swiftly afterwards.

The chemical weapons deal is the biggest diplomatic achievement on Syria after more than two years of a bitter civil war that the UN says has killed more than 100,000 people.

Syria agreed to give up its chemical weapons as part of a US-Russian agreement struck earlier this month, worked out as Washington threatened military action in response to an August 21 chemical weapons attack outside Damascus it blamed on President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The 41-member OPCW Executive Council usually takes decisions by consensus, or they require a two-thirds majority vote to pass.

A diplomatic source told AFP it was too early to say if there was consensus.

Besides weapons locations declared by Damascus as part of the Russia-US deal, 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," says the draft document seen by AFP.

It also says the OPCW will start inspections no later than October 1.

Syria is reported to have around 1,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, including 300 metric tons of sulphur mustard.

In case of non-compliance with the plan, which sees all Syrian chemical weapons and facilities destroyed by mid-2014, the OPCW will discuss the allegation and then take it to the UN Security Council and General Assembly.

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