Disarmament Experts Report Early Progress In Syria

BEIRUT (AP) -

International inspectors racing to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile said Thursday they have made “encouraging initial progress” in their mission, and they hope to start onsite inspections and to begin disabling equipment within a week.

An advance team of disarmament experts arrived in Syria on Tuesday to begin laying the foundations for a broader operation charged with dismantling and ultimately destroying President Bashar Assad’s chemical program over the next nine months. The first step in the undertaking — endorsed by a United Nations Security Council resolution last week — is to scrap by November 1 Syria’s capacity to manufacture chemical weapons.

The team reported its progress in a statement issued after the first day of meetings with Syrian authorities. Documents handed over by the Syrian government “look promising,” the statement said. But more analysis, particularly of technical diagrams, was planned, and “more questions remain to be answered.”

The onsite inspections and the disabling of equipment depend on the work of technical groups established together with Syrian experts. Those groups, the statement said, are working to iron out the details in three areas crucial to the mission: verifying the initial information Syria provided on its chemical program, ensuring the safety of the inspectors and finalizing practical arrangements for implementing the plan.