U.N. warns Syria chemical inspectors face dangerous mission

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The United Nations chief has warned that a team of 100 foreign experts trying to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal face a year-long mission of unprecedented danger.

In a report to the U.N. Security Council, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said it would take the experts to complete “an operation the likes of which, quite simply, has never been tried before.”

Setting out a blueprint for the disarmament operation, Ban recommended the team be increased to about 100 scientists, logistics and security experts who will stay for up to a year, according to Agence France-Presse.

Damascus and Cyprus will be the locations of two bases for the mission.

At present, Some 19 arms experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and 16 U.N. logistics and security personnel are in Syria and have started to destroy weapons production facilities.

Ban highlighted the threat to the experts and Syrian civilians from the sarin, mustard gas and other chemical horrors which are to be moved amid the “carnage” of Assad’s daily battle with rebels.

The experts will have to work in “dangerous and volatile” conditions, particularly in urban areas such as Damascus, Homs and Aleppo, the U.N. leader warned.

“Heavy artillery, air strikes, mortar barrages and the indiscriminate shelling of civilians areas are commonplace and battle lines shift quickly,” he added.

The OPCW and the U.N. have had to quickly gather a team after a Security Council resolution endorsed a Russian-U.S. disarmament plan on September 27. The plan aims to destroy Syria’s huge chemical weapons arsenal estimated at 1,000 tons, by mid-2014.

The plan was launched after a chemical weapons attack near Damascus on August 21, in which hundreds - Washington claims around 1,400 - people died.

(With AFP)