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Chemical weapons equipment destroyed in Syria – OPCW

Beirut, Nov 1 (): Syria has finished the “functional destruction” of all critical chemical weapons equipment, the international chemical weapons watchdog said Thursday.

Jerry Smith, head of the operations for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said his team had “personally observed” the destruction of the declared equipment. He added it was a “pleasant surprise” that the group had been awarded the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize but their priority had been to finish their task.

OPCW stated in a statement that “the Syrian Arab Republic has completed the functional destruction of critical equipment for all of its declared chemical weapons production facilities and mixing/filling plants, rendering them inoperable.”

The statement has also implied that Syria can no longer manufacture chemical weapons in future and has brought into focus the country’s existing stockpile of mass destruction arms. The move has raised hopes that it could well be on its way to complete chemical disarmament by the middle of next year.

The destruction was made after a deal brokered by Russia and the United States and Damascus agreed to destroy all its chemical weapons after Washington threatened to use force in response to the killing of hundreds of people in a attack on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21.

The deadly incident was the world’s deadliest chemical weapons incident since Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces used poison gas against the Kurdish town of Halabja 25 years ago.

The next target date is November 15; prior to it, OPCW and Syria must come to an agreement to a comprehensive plan of destruction, including how and where to destroy more than 1,000 metric tons of toxic agents and munitions.

Syria’s arsenal is assumed to include more than 1,000 tonnes of the nerve gas sarin, the blister agent sulphur mustard and other banned chemicals, stored at dozens of sites.