International mission begins destroying Syrian chemical weapons

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 October, 2013, 6:34pm
UPDATED : Monday, 07 October, 2013, 3:51am

Experts yesterday began the process of destroying Syria's chemical weapons arsenal under the terms of a UN resolution that will see Damascus relinquish its banned weapons, an official said.

The source in the international mission said the experts would verify details of the arsenal turned over by the Syrian government and start the process of destroying the weapons and production facilities.

The team faces the massive task of destroying an estimated 1,000 tonnes of the nerve agent sarin, mustard gas and other banned arms at dozens of sites in Syria by mid-2014 in line with the UN resolution.

As the operation got underway, President Bashar al-Assad admitted in an interview with Germany's Spiegel news magazine that his government made "mistakes" in the country's brutal civil conflict.

"Personal mistakes by individuals happened. We all make mistakes. Even a president makes mistakes," he added, insisting however "our fundamental decisions were right."

He also denied again that his forces used chemical weapons in an August 21 attack that eventually led to the UN resolution requiring Syria to turn over its arsenal of chemical weapons.

The team of disarmament experts from the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) based in The Hague arrived in Damascus on Tuesday.

An official in the joint mission said yesterday that members of the team "have left for a site where they are beginning verification and destruction".

"Today is the first day of destruction, in which heavy vehicles are going to run over and thus destroy missile warheads, aerial chemical bombs and mobile and static mixing and filling units," he said.

An OPCW official said last week that all "expedient methods" would be used to render Syria's production facilities unusable.

"Phase one, which is disclosure by the Syrians, is ending and we are now moving towards phase two, verification and destruction and disabling," the mission source said yesterday.

Syria agreed to relinquish its chemical arsenal for destruction under a UN resolution that enshrined a US-Russian agreement. The deal was hammered out in the wake of the August 21 attack on a Damascus suburb.