U.N. inspectors start mission to disable chemical production facilities in Syria

A joint team of U.N. and international inspectors overseeing the destruction of chemical weapons production facilities in Syria completed its first day of work on Wednesday in Damascus.

Martin Nesirky, a U.N. spokesperson, told journalists in New York that chemical weapons inspectors from the U.N. and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons are part of an operation to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons program by mid-2014. Nesirky said the team arrived on Tuesday and would begin dismantling the facilities soon.

"(The team started) securing the sites where (it) will operate, especially in outlying areas," Nesirky said. "The team has also been considering the health and environmental hazards which they may have to confront. Planning continues for one of the team's immediate tasks, disabling Syria's chemical weapons production facilities, which should begin soon."

Nesirky said discussions about the size of Syria's chemical stockpiles are also underway to ensure deadlines unanimously imposed by the U.N. Security Council and OPCW's Executive Council are met.

The 15-member U.N. Security Council recently adopted a resolution by a unanimous vote to quickly implement procedures drawn up by the OPCW to quickly destroy Syria's chemical weapons program.

The OPCW and U.N. said that the team in Syria stressed the onus on the Syrian government to meet verification and distribution deadlines set forth in the resolution.