UN inspectors begin Syria chemical weapons disarmament

OPCW team to destroy missile warheads, aerial chemical bombs, machinery used for toxic weapons production.

UN chemical inspectors in Syria 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Abdullah)
UN chemical inspectors in Syria 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Abdullah)
Inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have begun destroying Syria's chemical weapons arsenal and the machinery used for its production, AFP reported on Sunday.
"Today is the first day of destruction, in which heavy vehicles are going to run over and thus destroy missile warheads, aerial chemical bombs and mobile and static mixing and filling units," a source with the inspection operation told AFP.
The international inspectors will also verify details of the arsenal turned over by President Bashar Assad's government, the source told AFP.
Reuters quoted an OPCW who said Syrian forces used cutting torches and angle grinders to begin "destroying munitions."
It was not clear at which of the 19 chemical weapons facilities declared by the Syrian government Sunday's operation was taking place.
The mission to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons is expected to continue until at least mid-2014. It was hammered out by Washington and Moscow after an August 21 chemical weapons attack in Damascus prompted US threats of air strikes against the Syrian government.
Inspectors who were in the country at the time confirmed that sarin gas was used in the attack, which killed hundreds of people.
Under a joint Russian-US proposal, Syria has now committed to destroying its chemical weapons arsenal within nine months. It is believed to comprise around 1,000 metric tons of sarin, mustard and XV nerve agents.
The team of weapons inspectors is in Syria to make an inventory of its chemical stockpiles and munitions to determine how and where to destroy them.
Syria spent decades building up its chemical weapons program, largely to counter Israel's military superiority in the Middle East.
The country has given additional details about chemical weapons program that go beyond a September 21 declaration of its poison gas arsenal, the UN said on Friday. A UN spokesman said the additional information was being reviewed by the OPCW.