Report: Syria on target to destroy chemical arms

UN progress analysis says destruction of stockpiles are on schedule, but a few sites are inaccessible because of war

A poster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad adorns a wall as a United Nations vehicle carrying inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) leaves a hotel in Damascus, on Oct. 9.
Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images

Syria is on target to meet a looming deadline to destroy its chemical weapons production equipment, even though inspectors have yet to visit all sites, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a progress report.

"The functional destruction of the declared capacity of the Syrian Arab Republic is expected to be completed as planned by November 1," Ban said in a report to the U.N. Security Council obtained by Al Jazeera.

The report stated that personnel from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the U.N. had completed inspections of 41 facilities at 23 chemical sites, and that as of "the cut-off date of this report, the findings of the inspections corroborated the information provided by the Syrian Arab Republic about the above-mentioned facilities."

But the OPCW said inspectors were only able to visit 21 of the 23 sites because of security risks, which means the tight timeline for visiting all declared sites by Oct. 27 was missed, The Associated Press reported.

Destruction of the chemical production and mixing facilities is the first major deadline of a tight timetable set out by the Security Council to eliminate all of Syria's chemical weapons by June 30 next year.

Syria still has an estimated 1,000 tons of chemicals to be destroyed and no plan has yet been agreed for the risky operation, officials said.

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The inspectors have "confirmed the functional destruction of the production and mixing and filling capabilities at all the sites" inspected so far, Ban said.

The U.N. leader stressed that the deadline should be met "a mere" 34 days after the 15-nation Security Council ordered the destruction of all of Syria's chemical weapons.

"In all of these activities the government of the Syrian Arab Republic has extended consistent, constructive cooperation," Ban said.

There are 22 OPCW experts and about 50 UN staff supervising the destruction program so far, the U.N. report said.

The report said security "remains difficult and unpredictable" for the inspectors because of the 31-month-old war which the U.N. says has left well over 100,000 dead.

Ban added the inspectors would go to the last sites "as soon as conditions permit."

The report did not say if the unsafe sites were in government or opposition territory.

And the U.N. leader highlighted the major security and logistics task ahead to get rid of Syria's chemicals in line with the Security Council deadline.

Syria has submitted an "initial plan" for the transportation of chemicals for destruction, the report said without giving details.

"The job is far from complete and much important work remains to be done," Ban said. "Without sustained genuine commitment by the Syrian authorities, the joint mission will not fulfill its objectives," he warned.

The Security Council passed a resolution ordering the destruction of Syria's chemical arms amid tensions over a threatened U.S. military strike on the facilities.

The United States and other Western countries have blamed the Assad government for an Aug. 21 chemical weapon attack near Damascus in which hundreds died. The government has blamed Syrian rebels.

A U.N. inquiry determined that sarin gas was used in the assault, but it was not mandated to determine who conducted the assault. It is due to report this week on whether chemical weapons were used in other Syrian towns.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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