Syria Meets First Deadline on Chemical Weapons Pact

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geneva -- Syria has submitted "an initial declaration" on the chemical weapons it possesses, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, meeting the first deadline set down by the framework agreement Russia and the United States concluded in Geneva last weekend to avert Western military strikes.

"It started coming in yesterday," Michael Luhan, a spokesman for the organization, which will be verifying Syria's steps, said in a telephone interview from The Hague. He confirmed that the declaration was now being studied by the organization's technical experts but declined to give further details.

The completeness of the declaration represents a practical test of the commitment of Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, to give up his chemical weapons arsenal in line with the agreement hammered out in Geneva last weekend by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia's foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov.

Any determination that the Syrian declaration is flawed would likely bring calls for action in the United Nations Security Council, where Western governments are pushing for a resolution that would include the threat of military sanctions against the Assad government for any backsliding in its adherence to the Kerry-Lavrov agreement.

The O.P.C.W. does not disclose the contents of states' declarations, but Russia and the United States agreed in Geneva that Syria has about 1,000 tons of precursor chemicals and agents, including sulfur mustard and sarin gas. The United States has also identified 45 sites associated with Syria's chemical weapons program and says it believes half have "exploitable" quantities of chemical warfare materials. However, officials said Syrian forces had been moving stocks so the locations could have changed.

Syria's declaration is required to detail precisely the types and quantities of all its chemical agents, munitions and precursor chemicals as well as all laboratories for developing the agents and facilities for producing weapons. The O.P.C.W.'s assessment of the completeness of Syria's statement will be crucial in determining whether and how quickly inspectors can proceed with the next stage of the framework agreement.

That calls for the organization to complete an inspection of Syria's arsenal by November, and for Syria to complete the destruction of all equipment for producing chemical agents and weapons in the same month. Destruction of all the weapons is to be completed in the first half of 2014, although Mr. Assad has said that process could take a year.

The O.P.C.W. "intends to meet our deadlines," a spokesman said Friday. But diplomatic procedures for kicking off the work of the inspectors are starting slowly. The organization's executive council has postponed a weekend meeting to give its technical experts the go-ahead. No reason was given for the delay, and no date was set for a meeting of the ambassadors who make up the council, but Mr. Luhan said they would likely convene toward the middle or end of next week.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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