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Syria sends OPCW chemical weapons inventory

Sep. 20, 2013 - 01:06PM   |  
John Kerry, Frans Timmermans
Secretary of State John Kerry and Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans shake hands after making statements to reporters about efforts to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons Friday at the State Department in Washington. (Charles Dharapak / AP)
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THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS — Syria has sent the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons an "initial declaration" outlining its weapons program, the organization said Friday.

Spokesman Michael Luhan told The Associated Press that the declaration is "being reviewed by our verification division." The organization will not release details of what is in the declaration.

U.S. officials said last week that the United States and Russia agreed that Syria had 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.

In the aftermath of the U.N. report that concluded sarin had been used in an attack in Damascus last month, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which polices the treaty outlawing chemical weapons, is looking at ways to fast-track moves to secure and destroy Syria's arsenal of poison gas and nerve agents as well as its production facilities.

However, diplomatic efforts to speed up the process are moving slowly. A meeting initially scheduled for Sunday at which the organization's 41-nation executive council was to have discussed a U.S.-Russian plan to swiftly rid Syria of chemical weapons was postponed Friday, and no new date was immediately set. No reason was given for the postponement.

Under a U.S.-Russia agreement brokered last weekend in Geneva, inspectors are to be on the ground in Syria by November. During that month, they are to complete their initial assessment and all mixing and filling equipment for chemical weapons is to be destroyed.

All components of the chemical weapons program are to be removed from the country or destroyed by mid-2014.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons plan of action will be backed up by a U.N. Security Council resolution, and negotiations remain underway on the text of such a resolution.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he talked to his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, about Syria's chemical weapons early Friday.

"I had a fairly long conversation with Foreign Minister Lavrov," Kerry said in Washington. "We talked about the cooperation which we both agreed to continue to provide, moving not only toward the adoption of the OPCW rules and regulations, but also a resolution that is firm and strong within the United Nations. We will continue to work on that."

In an interview with Fox News Channel aired Wednesday, Syrian President Bashar Assad blamed terrorists for the Aug. 21 chemical attack, which the U.S. says killed more than 1,400 people, including hundreds of children. He said evidence that terrorist groups have used sarin gas has been turned over to Russia and that Russia, through one of its satellites, has evidence that the rockets in the attack were launched from another area.

While the U.N. report did not lay blame, many experts interpreting the report said all indications were that the attack was conducted by Assad forces.

____

Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann contributed from Washington, D.C.

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