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Published: Sunday, 10/27/2013

CHEMICAL WEAPONS

Syria meets deadline for declaration

Unclear if 23 or 45 sites; details in report secret

NEW YORK TIMES

GENEVA — Syria submitted a formal declaration of its chemical weapons program and a plan for destroying the arsenal three days before the deadline, the international chemical weapons watchdog said Sunday.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, is charged with monitoring and destroying Syria’s chemical weapons program.

OPCW officials said Syria had submitted the plan on Thursday and that the agency’s executive council would consider the declaration’s “general plan of destruction” by Nov. 15.

It was not clear, however, whether the declaration’s listing of Syria’s chemical weapons sites was exhaustive, a test of President Bashar Assad’s willingness to cooperate with the program to eliminate the chemical weapons infrastructure and arsenal.

OPCW representatives declined to disclose or discuss the contents of the Syrian document, saying that the report is confidential.

U.S. officials said in September that Syria’s chemical weapons program included at least 45 sites. But when Syria submitted a preliminary declaration of its chemical weapons program that month, it declared only 23 sites.

The State Department has never fully explained the discrepancy. Some of the gap, U.S. officials have suggested, may reflect efforts by the Syrians to consolidate their chemical weapons stocks, as well as the haste in which the Assad government compiled its initial list.

But U.S. officials also have suggested that Syria’s preliminary declaration was not complete and emphasized the need for the Assad government to do better in the formal declaration.

The Obama Administration is counting on the Russians to use their influence with Assad to persuade him to comply.

The initiative to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons program came from the Russians, who were looking for a way to protect the Assad government from a U.S.-led airstrike that the White House had threatened after, it said, the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in a suburb of Damascus on Aug. 21.

U.S. and Russian officials worked out a disarmament plan in September. Later that month, the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution that required Syria to give up its arms.

Michael Luhan, a spokesman for the agency, told reporters last week that by Thursday, Syria would “no longer have the capability to produce any more chemical weapons.

 



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