The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

September 29, 2013

Chemical weapons inspectors outline Syria plan

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Inspectors who will oversee Syria’s destruction of its chemical weapons said Sunday their first priority is to help the country scrap its ability to manufacture such arms by a Nov. 1 deadline — using every means possible.

The chemical weapons inspectors said that may include smashing mixing equipment with sledgehammers, blowing up delivery missiles, driving tanks over empty shells or filling them with concrete, and running machines without lubricant so they seize up and become inoperable.

On Friday, the U.N. Security Council ordered the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to help Syria destroy its chemical weapons by mid-2014.

On Sunday, inspectors met with media in The Hague to explain their current plan of action, which is to include an initial group of 20 leaving for Syria on Monday.

The organization allowed two inspectors to speak on condition of anonymity out of concern for their safety amid Syria’s civil war; both are veteran members of the OPCW.  Spokesman Michael Luhan said the men “are going to be deeply involved in Syria.”

“This isn’t just extraordinary for the OPCW. This hasn’t been done before: an international mission to go into a country which is involved in a state of conflict and amid that conflict oversee the destruction of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction which it possesses,” Luhan said. “This is definitely a historical first.”

Syria acknowledged for the first time it has chemical weapons after an Aug. 21 poison gas attack killed hundreds of civilians in a Damascus suburb and President Barack Obama threatened a military strike in retaliation.  A U.N. investigation found that nerve gas was used in the attack but stopped short of blaming it on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

After a flurry of diplomatic negotiations involving the U.S., Syria, and Syrian ally Russia, Syria made an initial voluntary disclosure of its program to the Hague-based OPCW. Under organization’s rules, the amounts and types of weapons in Syria’s stockpiles, and the number and location of the sites, will not be publicly disclosed.

The U.S. and Russia agree that Syria has roughly 1,000 metric tons of chemical weapons agents and precursors, including blister agents such as sulfur and mustard gas, and nerve agents like sarin.  External experts say they are distributed over 50 to70 sites.

One of the OPCW experts with a military background said the “open source” information about the Syrian program is “reasonable.”

Timothee Germain, a researcher at the Center for International Security and Arms Control in Paris, who is not involved with the OPCW project, said that in the early phases of Syria’s civil war, chemical weapons were consolidated into a small number of sites in order to keep them from falling into the hands of rebels. But when the prospect of a U.S. military strike emerged, the weapons may have been redistributed over a larger number of sites to preserve them.

He added that he is skeptical the current timeline can be achieved. “From a technical standpoint, it’s really a long-shot,” he said.

The investigators said members of the initial group of 20 will meet with counterparts from Syria’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday and begin planning.  A week later, the OPCW mission will be expanded to a larger number of investigators who will arrive in waves and begin visiting sites and disabling equipment. At the same time, they will be examining sites for their suitability as places to eventually destroy chemicals and ready-to-fire weapons, which is usually done by incineration.

“At this stage we’re looking at tens of inspectors” for the mission, the OPCW military expert said. The teams will include chemists, military experts and medical personnel trained to deal with the hazards posed by chemical waste.

Protection for OPCW staff will be provided primarily by the Syrian government, with support from the U.N., which has a longstanding working relationship with the OPCW and lines of communication open with rebel groups.

The OPCW expert said access to weapons sites in or near rebel-held territory would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, with the U.N. possibly helping negotiate safe passage. “It may be that we are not in a position to go to some of these places,” he said. “Our inspectors are all volunteers. This is not a mission that will be carried out come what may.”

After the initial phase of destroying Syria’s ability to manufacture weapons, the actual destruction phase will take far longer and be more expensive, the second expert said.  He added that “at this stage there is no reason to doubt Syria’s commitment” to destroying its weapons, adding that its disclosure was voluntary and credible.

1
Text Only
National and world
  • APTOPIX Hospital Shoo_Hass.jpg Official: Hospital gunman intended to kill others

    A psychiatric patient ranted about a hospital gun ban before opening fire at the suburban medical complex, killing his caseworker and grazing his psychiatrist before the doctor pulled out his own weapon and fired back.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Darth Vader is polling higher than all potential 2016 presidential candidates

    On the other hand, with a net favorability of -8, Jar Jar is considerably more popular than the U.S. Congress, which currently enjoys a net favorability rating of -65.

    July 25, 2014

  • g000258000000000000245c0063741aaafcc815c5b3199362fb09f8a7c3.jpg Llama on the loose corralled in Missouri town

    
Gibson called Diamond City Hall for help but the police chief was out on another call. The city clerk came to join in the surveillance ...

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • Severe Weather web.jpg Tornado slams Virginia campground; 2 dead

    A couple from New Jersey was killed when a tree fell on their tent. Their 13-year-old son, in a tent next to them, had life-threatening injuries.
    He was among three dozen people hurt.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Aviations Bad Week web.jpg Bad week for aviation: Airline disasters come in a cluster

    Industry analysts and safety experts shake their heads at the seeming randomness of the tragedies, saying they can find no common themes. Nor do they think the events indicate that flying is suddenly becoming less safe.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Obama Economic Patriotism web.jpg Obama wants limits on mergers abroad by U.S. companies

    “They’re technically renouncing their U.S. citizenship. They’re declaring they are based someplace else even though most of their operations are here,” Obama said at a technical college in Los Angeles. “You know, some people are calling these companies corporate deserters.”
    He also charged that such companies are “cherry-picking the rules.”

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Arizona Execution web.jpg As inmate died, lawyers debated if he was in pain

    Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan read a statement Thursday outside his office dismissing the notion the execution was botched, calling it an “erroneous conclusion” and “pure conjecture.” He said IVs in the inmate’s arms were “perfectly placed” and insisted that Wood felt no pain.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Economic Recovery web.jpg U.S. economy, though sluggish, may now be sturdier

    • Inflation is under control. Runaway price increases would be destructive. Low inflation can lay a foundation for growth.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mideast web.jpg Casualty numbers raise questions about Gaza war

    A Palestinian health official put the death toll at 695 and said more than 4,100 were wounded, with civilian casualties rising sharply since Israel sent tanks and troops into Gaza last week in its first ground operation in five years.
    Israel has not offered its own count, but Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, said Wednesday that 210 Gaza militants were killed since the ground operation began.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Oil Train Fires web.jpg Stopping deadly oil train fires: New rules planned

    Accident investigators have complained for decades that older tank cars, known as DOT-111s, are too easily punctured or ruptured, spilling their contents when derailed. Since 2008, there have been 10 significant derailments in the U.S. and Canada in which crude oil has spilled from ruptured tank cars, often igniting and resulting in huge fireballs. The worst was a runaway oil train that exploded in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic a year ago, killing 47 people.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads