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US: Analysts Reviewing Syrian Chemical Weapons Declaration with 'Skepticism'

The top U.S. envoy to the United Nations says the government of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is cooperating with a joint international mission inspecting chemical weapons sites in Syria.

But Ambassador Samantha Power, speaking late Tuesday, said Western analysts are still reviewing the Damascus government's recent chemical arms declaration with skepticism, and are checking its accuracy.

Syria submitted a lengthy list of its chemical weaponry late last month, and must soon agree with the inspections mission on how and where to destroy the stockpiles.

Earlier Tuesday, U.N. envoy Sigrid Kaag, who is charged with coordinating the destruction of those weapons, said she expects a decision by November 15 on where the stockpiles will be destroyed.

In Geneva, meanwhile, U.N.-Arab League Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said he hopes peace talks between the Syrian government and rebels seeking to overthrow it will take place before the end of this year.



Brahimi had earlier voiced hopes of bringing Damascus delegates and opposition groups together in Geneva later this month. But Tuesday he said progress toward that goal has been slowed by the inability of opposition factions to form a credible delegation for the negotiations.

Brahimi's claim of disarray among rebel factions was underscored earlier this week, when a top rebel leader of the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army resigned to protest infighting among rebel groups at war with the Syrian government.

Separately, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he expects Damascus to participate in peace talks. His remarks came despite comments from Syrian government officials who say negotiations can not take place if they require President Bashar al-Assad to first step down, as demanded by rebels.

The 31-month Syrian rebellion started with the so-called Arab Spring protests in early 2011 that spiraled into civil war. More than 120,000 people have been killed in the uprising and millions more have been displaced.

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