Chemical weapons team reports progress in Syria

The joint United Nations and Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons team mandated to help Syria eliminate its chemical weapons program announced encouraging initial progress on Wednesday.

The team said the documents handed over by the Syrian government after meetings with authorities on Tuesday looked promising. The team members pointed out that further analysis, particularly of technical diagrams, will be needed to confirm the validity of the documents. In addition, further questions need to be answered related to Syria's chemical weapons program.

The OPCW-U.N. team said it hoped to start onsite inspections and the initial disabling of equipment within one week's time. The start of operations is dependent on the outcome of technical groups established with the participation of Syrian experts. The groups will work on three key areas to the mission's success, including the verification of the information handed over by Syria's government, the security and safety of the inspection teams and practical arrangements for implementing the plan.

The team arrived in Damascus on October 1, just four days after the unanimous endorsement of a plan to send the team's members to Syria to start the destruction of the country's chemical weapons program. The team consists of 19 OPCW inspectors and 14 U.N. staff members.

Syria's chemical weapons material and equipment are to be eliminated by the middle of 2014.