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Middle east

US credits Syria for chemical weapons 'compliance'

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-10-07

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday lauded Syria's "compliance" with a UN resolution calling for the destruction of its chemical arsenal, saying it was a "credit" to the regime that it moved quickly to eliminate the banned weapons.

The United States lauded Syria's "compliance" with a UN resolution calling for the destruction of its chemical arsenal on Monday, with US Secretary of State John Kerry saying it was a "credit" to the Damascus regime that it moved quickly to eliminate the banned weapons.

"The process has begun in record time and we are appreciative for the Russian cooperation and obviously for the Syrian compliance," Kerry told reporters alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Indonesia.

"I think it's a credit to the Assad regime, frankly," he said. "It's a good beginning and we welcome a good beginning."

UN experts began destroying Syria's missile warheads and aerial bombs in accordance with the resolution on Sunday. The operation is being performed by Syrian personnel under the supervision of international disarmament experts.

"I think it's extremely significant that yesterday, Sunday, within a week of the resolution being passed, some chemical weapons were being destroyed," Kerry said.

Syria agreed to give up its chemical arsenal after a UN resolution was passed on September 27 that enshrined an agreement struck between Washington and Moscow aimed at averting US military action.

Under the plan, Syria's chemical weapons mixing and production facilities must be destroyed by November 1.

On Sunday, a statement released by the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said workers "used cutting torches and angle grinders to destroy or disable a range of items".

The Syrian workers were destroying or disabling a "range of items", including "missile warheads, aerial bombs and mixing and filling equipment", the statement added.

The team faces the daunting task of disposing of 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.

International disarmament experts, who arrived on Tuesday, were also "monitoring, verifying and reporting" whether Assad's government provided accurate information on its chemical stockpiles.

As the operation got under way, Assad admitted in an interview that his government had made "mistakes" in the country's brutal conflict.

But he again denied that his forces used chemical weapons in an August 21 attack that killed hundreds of civilians.

The assault led to threats of a US strike and eventually the UN resolution requiring Syria to turn over its arsenal.

The OPCW has said other methods to render Syria's production facilities unusable could include explosives, sledgehammers or pouring concrete.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon is expected to send a report to the Security Council on Monday setting out in more detail the logistics of what is considered one of the biggest and most dangerous disarmament operations ever staged because the Syria war is still raging.

Transparency


Assad insisted his government was being "very transparent" with the UN-OPCW team.

"The experts can go to every site. They are going to get all the data from us, they will verify them, and then they can make a judgement about our credibility," he told Germany's "Spiegel" magazine.

But he also acknowledged that mistakes had been made in responding to the uprising that took the form of peaceful protests when it began in March 2011 before escalating into a civil war after a brutal crackdown by government forces.

More than 115,000 people have since been killed, activists say. Two million people have become refugees and millions more have been displaced inside Syria.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

 

Date created : 2013-10-07

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