Syria's chemical weapons equipment destroyed
But the next step will be the hardest: destroying the chemicals in the midst of a civil war
ALL equipment used to produce chemical weapons in Syria has now been destroyed, according to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
The announcement comes a day ahead of the deadline set by the international watchdog and marks an important step in the ambitious disarmament programme.
Inspectors were sent into the country following allegations that government forces had killed more than1,400 citizens in a nerve agent attack in Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus on 21 August. The government continues to deny the accusations and blames rebel forces.
The OPCW, which won the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this month, told the BBC it had "personally observed" the destruction of all "declared" equipment used for producing, mixing and filling chemical weapons.
The OPCW said its teams had inspected 21 of the 23 chemical weapons sites in Syria. The other two are said to be too dangerous to visit but the equipment had already been moved to some of the other sites.
The next step is the hardest part, says the New Scientist: destroying the chemicals in the midst of a civil war that has killed more than 100,000 in the last two-and-a-half years.
The government's arsenal is believed to include more than 1,000 tonnes of the nerve gas sarin, the blister agent sulphur mustard and other banned chemicals, stored at dozens of sites.
The Syrian regime is currently looking for a country to host a mobile plant to destroy the chemicals. Experts have warned that a mobile plant based in Syria might attract rebel missiles, while transporting chemicals around the country also risks the poisonous agents being captured by insurgents.
The Chemical Weapons Convention prohibits importing or exporting such chemicals, although the OPCW can approve exceptions. But the US and Russia have refused to destroy the chemicals on their own soil.
The OPCW has until 15 November to finalise a plan and until June next year to carry it out. ·