October 06, 2013
Destruction of Syria's Chemical Weapons Begins
A team of international inspectors has begun the huge task of destroying Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons and the facilities used to make them.
Authorities said Sunday is the first day of the dismantling process, but gave no details where the inspectors went after they left their Damascus hotel.
The team consists of experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague and United Nations personnel assisting them. They arrived in Damascus last week.
The mission, agreed to by Washington and Moscow after an August chemical weapons attack in Damascus prompted U.S. threats of air strikes against the Syrian government, is expected to continue until at least mid-2014.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said last month that he would comply with the operation.
Developed during the 1980s and 1990s, Syria's chemical arsenal is believed to contain mustard gas and the nerve agents sarin, VX and tabun.
Also Sunday, U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi urged Syria's warring parties to hold talks "without preconditions" and said he hopes negotiations could take place in Geneva in late November.
Brahimi also expressed deep frustration with the stalled Syria peace process, admitting he feels like resigning from his post.
The head of the peace envoy's office in Damascus, Mokhtar Lamani, said Sunday that sectarian hatred in Syria is on the rise and can result in "something very dangerous" unless the much delayed Geneva peace talks are successful.
"What we are witnessing now with the raise of sectarianism and some other problems of the conflict, of course, the ingredients are there for something very, very dangerous to happen if we don't reach a peaceful solution which is the only possibility to save Syria as well as the region."
The head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition has said the group is ready to attend the peace talks if they aim to establish a transitional government.
Other opposition voices, including rebels inside Syria, said they are against talks as long as Mr. Assad remains in power.