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October 24, 2013

Chemical Weapons Mission Awaits Syria's Disarmament Plan

by VOA News

The mission overseeing the dismantling of Syria's chemical weapons program is expecting the government to turn over a plan on Thursday for destroying its existing stockpile.

The destruction is the final phase of an agreement with the United Nations and the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to rid Syria of chemical arms by the middle of next year.

Syria has until Sunday to present the plan, but an OPCW spokesman said the mission expects to receive an initial document within 24 hours reagarding how the government will destroy the weapons.

OPCW inspectors have been to most of the production sites disclosed by Syria, where crews are rendering the equipment inoperable. The group expressed confidence that Syria's capability to make any new weapons will be destroyed by a November 1 deadline.

Meanwhile, Syrian officials say power is being restored after much of the country lost electricity late Wednesday following an explosion near the international airport.

Minister of Electricity Imad Khamis said he expected power to return to all areas within 48 hours. State news agency SANA quoted him blaming the outage on a "terrorist" attack on gas pipelines that feed electricity generating stations.

The Britain-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the explosion was caused by rebel artillery strikes aimed at the town of Ghasula, several kilometers from the airport.

Rebels seeking to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad have been trying for months to push into the capital.

The fighting in Syria has killed more than 100,000 people and forced millions from their homes since it began in March 2011.