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UN Team Delays Visits to 2 Syrian Chemical Weapons Sites

FILE - U.N. vehicles, transporting a team of experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, leave their hotel in Damascus October 22, 2013.
International inspectors charged with visiting Syria's chemical weapons sites say two of the sites remain inaccessible due to security concerns.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Monday that inspections at 21 of the 23 sites had been completed and that it was still trying to secure safe access to the remaining two sites.

Syria has already submitted plans for the destruction of its chemical weapon arsenal, giving them to the OPCW three days ahead of schedule.

The statement from the chemical weapons inspectors comes as the U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria is making his first visit to Damascus in almost a year.

Lakhdar Brahimi met Monday with Syria's deputy foreign minister, Faisal al Miqdad, during a regional tour aimed at building support for peace talks.

Russia, the United States and other Western powers have been pushing for a new round of talks in Geneva in mid-to-late November.

On Sunday, several jihadist groups fighting in Syria slammed the idea of new peace talks. The Western-backed Syrian National Coalition has also expressed reservations about the proposed conference, saying it will not attend unless the talks result in the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday accused those backing many of the opposition groups of trying to scuttle the talks.

"Every opposition group on earth has one patron or another whether in the region or beyond. Everyone knows that, including our U.S. partners. And we together with them are trying to make these sponsors and patrons fully realize their responsibility for the [Syrian] opposition behavior. Everyone talks about the need to start [the] Geneva Two process, but in reality some states, which have a strong influence on the Syrian crisis, work directly to disrupt this Russian-U.S. initiative," said Lavrov.

The "Geneva Two" conference would seek to establish a transitional government to run Syria and prepare it for democratic elections.

Meanwhile, fighting in Syria rages on. State-run media Monday said government forces retook a Christian town north of Damascus. Parts of the town of Sadad had recently been captured by jihadist forces.

Fighting also spilled over into the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, where the Lebanese army clashed with Sunni residents supporting Syria's opposition groups.

The conflict in Syria has killed more than 100,000 people and displaced millions more since it began in March 2011.