Syria completes handover of chemical weapons inventory on time: Watchdog

Syria completes handover of chemical weapons inventory on time: Watchdog

THE HAGUE - Agence France-Presse
Syria completes handover of chemical weapons inventory on time: Watchdog

In this file photo released on Aug. 31by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, samples brought back by the U.N. chemical weapons inspection team are checked in upon their arrival at The Hague. AP photo

Syria has completed the handover of an inventory of its chemical arsenal by a Sept. 21 deadline as part of a deal that headed off military strikes, the world's chemical weapons watchdog said.

The "OPCW has confirmed that it has received the expected disclosure from the Syrian government regarding its chemical weapons programme," the Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said in an email received by AFP. "The Technical Secretariat is currently reviewing the information received," it added.

The OPCW has postponed a meeting of its Executive Council set for Sept. 22 which had been due to discuss how to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons programme.

The U.S.-Russian disarmament agreement, worked out as Washington threatened military action in response to an August 21 chemical weapons attack outside Damascus, requires Syria to hand over the whole of its arsenal which is to be destroyed by mid-2014.

U.N. diplomats are trying to thrash out a resolution to ensure Syrian compliance with the deal, but they first need the document laying out what U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the "rules and regulations" of the disarmament to be agreed by the OPCW.

Watchdog to prepare timetable

Following the deal, Syria asked to join the Chemical Weapons Convention, which the OPCW enforces. OPCW experts will now analyse the inventory handed over by Damascus to draw up a realistic timetable for destroying the chemicals, delivery systems and production facilities.

According to the framework agreed by Washington and Moscow, OPCW weapons inspectors are to complete inspections of Syrian weapons sites and destruction of production and mixing/filling equipment by November.

But the international consensus on the plan has not carried over into negotiations on the wording of a U.N. Security Council resolution to back it up.

The Council's five permanent members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - have been wrangling over the text of the resolution since Monday in a bid to find common ground.

The United States, France and Britain want a strongly worded resolution, possibly under the U.N. Charter's Chapter VII, which could allow the use of force or sanctions to ensure compliance.

But Russia, a key ally of Damascus, opposes all references to use of force.