Syria submits chemical weapons inventory, meeting Russia, US deadline

Watchdog expected to vote on fast track for weapons destruction.

A man wearing a chemical mask searches for survivors (photo credit: Haleem Al-Halabi/Reuters)
A man wearing a chemical mask searches for survivors
(photo credit: Haleem Al-Halabi/Reuters)
AMSTERDAM - Syria has disclosed all the information on its chemical weapons that was expected by an agreed Saturday deadline, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said on Saturday.
The disclosure is a crucial stage in the process that should lead to the weapons' destruction. Syria is believed to possess about 1,000 tons of toxins, and has agreed to destroy them under a joint Russian-US proposal designed to avert a US military strike on Syria.
"The Technical Secretariat is currently reviewing the information received," a statement on the OPCW website said. 
One Western diplomat warned on Friday that a failure by Assad to account for all the suspected stockpile would cause world powers to seek immediate action at the United Nations Security Council to force Damascus to comply.  
The chemical weapons watchdog's core members are due to vote - probably next week - on a plan aimed at fast-tracking the destruction of Syria's stockpiles of chemical arms by mid-2014.
Crisis in Syria - full coverage
The United States and its allies said the UN inspectors' report this week left no doubt Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces were responsible for the Aug. 21 killings. Assad, however, has blamed the rebels and Moscow says the evidence of responsibility is unclear.
The Syrian government has accepted the plan and has already sought to join the OPCW. For Assad, the Russian proposal to remove chemical weapons provided an unexpected reprieve from the military action which President Barack Obama had planned after the Aug. 21 attack. For Obama, it solved a dilemma posed when he found Congress unwilling to support war on Syria. 
Russia could abandon Assad if he "cheats"
Russia could abandon support for Assad if it learned that he was not committed to handing over control of his chemical weapons arsenal, the chief of staff for President Vladimir Putin suggested on Saturday.
But Sergei Ivanov also reiterated Russia's long-standing opposition to western military intervention in Syria, saying that such action would only aid militants linked to al-Qaida.
"In the event of external military interference the opposition ... would entirely lose interest in negotiations, considering that the US would bomb the regime to its foundations as in Libya, giving them an easy path to victory," Ivanov said in comments reported by Russian media to a Stockholm conference organized by the British-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.
He said that Russia expected to know the whereabouts of all Assad's chemical weapons within a week, although it would take two to three months to decide how long would be required to eliminate them.
"I'm talking theoretically and hypothetically, but if we became sure that Assad is cheating, we could change our position," Sergei Ivanov said.