U.N. chemical experts report ‘encouraging initial progress’

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The U.N. team of chemical weapons expert reported on Thursday that it has made “encouraging initial progress” towards removing Syria’s chemical arsenal.

“Documents handed over yesterday by the Syrian Government look promising, according to team members, but further analysis, particularly of technical diagrams, will be necessary and some more questions remain to be answered,” the United Nations said in a statement, Reuters news agency reported.

The statement said the team hopes to begin onsite inspections and the initial disabling of equipment within the next week depending on the outcome of the technical groups.

The technical groups will focus on three tasks, the verification of the information handed over by the Syrian government, the safety and security of the inspection teams, and practical arrangements for implementing the work plan, according to Reuters.

The experts who are overseeing the disarmament of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile have begun on Thursday securing their sites of operation, the U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said in a statement.

“Joint work with the Syrian authorities has begun on securing the sites where the team will operate,” said the statement, which detailed the activities of the team’s first day of work on Wednesday, according to Agence France-Presse.

“In addition, planning continues for one of the team’s immediate tasks, disabling Syria’s chemical weapons production facilities, which should begin soon.”

The Syrian regime has so far complied with the deal made by Russia and the U.S. after an Aug 21. chemical weapons attack in Damascus, which Washington blamed on Syrian government forces.

The deal stipulates that the regime’s stockpile be dismantled by the middle of next year and the U.N. mission is expected to continue until then.

The OPCW has received documents from the Syrian regime detailing its arsenal, which is believed to include more than 1,000 tons of sarin, mustard gas and other banned chemicals stored at an estimated 45 sites.

More than 100,000 people have died in Syria's conflict, which began in early 2011 with peaceful demonstrations seeking more democracy but has deteriorated into sectarian civil war.

(With Reuters and AFP)