Syria discloses details of chemical-weapons arsenal

Disclosure meets deadline stipulated by U.S.-Russia deal to avert punitive military strikes

A UN arms expert collects samples on August 29 as they inspect the site during an investigation into a chemical weapons strike in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta.
Ammar al-Arbini/AFP/Getty Images

Syria disclosed remaining details of its chemical-weapons arsenal Saturday, meeting a deadline under a deal brokered by the United States and Russia that has so far averted punitive military strikes against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said.

Damascus had already turned over details of part of its inventory to the Hague-based watchdog, but the group said that the process was now complete.

"The Technical Secretariat is currently reviewing the information received," a statement on the OPCW website said.

Syria is believed to possess an estimated 1,000 tons of toxins, and has agreed to destroy them under the joint U.S.-Russia plan.

U.N. chemical investigators confirmed on Monday the use of sarin nerve agent in an Aug. 21 gas attack outside Damascus. While the report did not state who was behind the attack, the United States and its allies allege that forces loyal to Assad were responsible.

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James Bays, Al Jazeera's diplomatic editor, said Syria's disclosure was very significant.

"If we go back to just two weeks ago, Syria would not even say that it had chemical weapons," he said.

The OPCW's core members are due to vote, most likely next week, on a plan aimed at fast-tracking the destruction of Syria's chemical-weapon stockpile by mid-2014.

The deal has received widespread international support, including from China, whose Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing would "support the early launch of the process to destroy Syria's chemical weapons."

But international consensus on the plan is contrasted by disagreements on the wording of a U.N. Security Council resolution to back it.

The Council's five permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- have been negotiating since Monday in a bid to find common ground.

The United States, France and Britain want a strongly worded resolution, possibly under the U.N. Charter's Chapter VII -- which could allow the use of force or sanctions to ensure compliance.

Russia, a key ally of Syria, opposes all references to the use of force.

Meanwhile, the disarmament deal has done little to slow fighting on the ground in Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that regime troops killed 15 people in a Sunni village in the central province of Hama late Friday.

Elsewhere in the country, the Observatory said rival rebel groups carried out prisoner exchanges under the terms of a deal to end fighting over the town of Azaz, near the border with Turkey.

The truce deal between the mainstream Free Syrian Army and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) was brokered by a third brigade, which is overseeing the ceasefire.

Tensions have spiraled between some mainstream rebel groups and ISIS in recent months, especially in northern Syria where the opposition controls vast swathes of territory.

In the two years since Syria's civil war began, an estimated 100,000 people have been killed and a refugee crisis has unfolded.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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