U.N. Council approves Syria disarmament plan

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The U.N. Security Council on Friday formally approved a first joint mission with the Nobel Peace Prize winning global chemical arms watchdog to destroy Syria's weapons.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the U.N. already have a team of 60 experts and support staff in Syria destroying Syria’s production facilities while the country’s civil war rages on.

The 15-member Security Council sent a letter to Ban on Friday backing his plan on carrying out the full eradication of Syria’s banned chemical arms.

“The Security Council authorizes the establishment of the OPCW-UN join mission as proposed,” said the letter, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

The formal backing was given as it was announced that the OPCW had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

“This recognition occurs nearly 100 years after the first chemical attack -- and 50 days after the appalling use of chemical weapons in Syria. Far from being a relic of the past, chemical weapons remain a clear and present danger,” Ban said in a tribute to the OPCW.

Ban said in a draft plan sent to the Security Council that up to 100 experts will be needed to carry out the mission aiming to destroy Syria’s sarin, mustard gas and other chemical weapons by the middle of 2014.

He has warned they will have to operate in unprecedented danger because of the war that has left well over 100,000 dead.

A chemical weapons attack in Damascus on August 21, which left hundreds dead, sparked an international crisis that led to threats of a US military strike against Syrian government targets.

However the Security Council passed a resolution on September 27 backing a Russia-U.S. plan to destroy President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons.

The team has been doubled to about 60 people in recent days, the UN said Friday.

The team “has made good progress in verifying the information submitted” by the Syrian government, said a U.N. statement.

“At the end of the first 10 days of operations on the ground the verification teams have inspected three sites and plans are underway for further site visits,” said the statement.

“As OPCW has received initial and supplementary information from Syria on its chemical weapons program, the advance team is now in the process of verifying that information. It has also overseen the destruction by Syria of some of its munitions stockpile, as well as some of its chemical weapons production equipment.”

Ban is expected to quickly name a leader of the joint mission which will have bases in Damascus and Cyprus.

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