Chemical arms watchdog adopts Syria plan ahead of UN vote
The world's chemical watchdog on Saturday adopted a plan to dismantle Syria's chemical arsenal, shortly before the UN Security Council votes on a resolution including the blueprint.
"The decision is adopted and it is effective immediately," Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons spokesman Michael Luhan told journalists after the Executive Council meeting.
"After a last-moment unexpected delay our Executive Council has met and at 12:38 this morning (2238 GMT) has adopted a decision on an accelerated programme by the OPCW to destroy Syria's chemical weapons," Luhan said.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has called the OPCW document the "rules and regulations" of Syria's chemical disarmament to be enshrined in the UN resolution that is to be voted on at 0000 GMT Saturday.
The resolution will be the first passed on Syria by the 15-member body since the civil war started in March 2011.
Luhan said that a there was a "very minor change" to a draft document seen by AFP and "the timetable was not disturbed", including destroying all Syrian chemical weapons by mid-2014.
A diplomat close to the talks said the plan was adopted by consensus by the 41-member OPCW Executive Council.
The plan calls inspections to start by Tuesday and for "ambitious milestones for destruction" of identified chemical weapons to be set by the Executive Council by November 15, the OPCW said in a statement after the agreement.
OPCW Director General Ahmet Uzumcu said the organisation's Technical Secretariat was ready to commence its work in Syria immediately.
"This decision sends an unmistakable message that the international community is coming together to work for peace in Syria, beginning with the elimination of chemical weapons in that country," he said in the statement.
"The decision is effective immediately and we expect an advance team on the ground in Syria by next week," Luhan added.
The chemical weapons deal is the biggest diplomatic achievement on Syria after more than two years of a bitter civil war that the UN says has killed more than 100,000 people.
Syria agreed to give up its chemical weapons as part of a US-Russian deal struck earlier this month, worked out as Washington threatened military action in response to an August 21 chemical weapons attack outside Damascus it blamed on President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
Syria is reported to have around 1,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, including 300 metric tons of sulphur mustard.
In case of non-compliance with the plan, which sees all Syrian chemical weapons and facilities destroyed by mid-2014, the OPCW will discuss the allegation and then take it to the UN Security Council and General Assembly.
© 2013 AFP