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International Weapons Experts En Route to Syria

  • VOA News

An advance group of weapons inspectors who will oversee Syria's destruction of its chemical arms has arrived in Beirut en route to Damascus.

The 20 experts from The Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will travel to Syria on Tuesday to help President Bashar al-Assad's government meet a November 1 deadline to scrap its ability to manufacture such arms.

The destruction of Syria's existing stockpiles is to be completed by mid-2014.

Meanwhile, a U.N. team of inspectors charged with investigating alleged chemical attack sites concluded its nearly week-long mission in Syria and headed to Lebanon. The U.N. said Friday the team was to investigate a total of seven locations.

The group initially visited Syria last month to investigate three alleged chemical attacks earlier this year. But just days into the visit, the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Ghouta was hit by a chemical weapons attack, and the inspectors turned their attention to that case.

The inquiry determined that the nerve agent sarin was used in the August 21 attack, but did not assess who was behind it.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Monday his government will fully comply with the U.N. Security Council resolution passed last week to have Syria dismantle its chemical weapons program.

He also told the United Nations General Assembly the international community should create a nuclear-free zone throughout the Middle East.

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