Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Inspectors Unable to See 2 Syria Sites ; 21 Are Visited to Verify Chemical Weapons, but War Blocks Full Access

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Inspectors Unable to See 2 Syria Sites ; 21 Are Visited to Verify Chemical Weapons, but War Blocks Full Access

Article excerpt

Inspectors have been unable to gain access to two sites because they are in contested areas in Syria's civil war.

International inspectors have completed verification of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal at 21 of the 23 sites identified by the government, but they have been unable to visit the two others because they are in contested areas in Syria's civil war, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said in a statement on Monday.

The organization said on Sunday that inspectors would complete destruction of equipment for mixing chemicals and filling weapons by the start of November, an important milestone.

But no details are yet available on what kind of facilities are in the two sites that inspectors have been unable to visit, nor on the chances for gaining access to them, raising the prospect that Syria will miss some deadlines.

Despite this hurdle, a senior State Department official said on Monday that the disarmament process was generally on track and that there "was reason to be optimistic."

Among the positive signs, the State Department official said, the Syrian government has presented a plan that "seems to be realistic" for the elimination of its chemical weapons arsenal that would allow the removal of precursor chemicals, which are used to make poison gas, so they could be destroyed outside Syria.

That is consistent with the disarmament approach favored by American officials, who believe that it would be the most efficient way to eliminate Syria's chemical arsenal by mid-2014 under a plan endorsed last month by the United Nations Security Council. But just where the destruction of precursor chemicals will take place is not clear. Norway rejected an American request that mobile American destruction equipment be moved there to help destroy Syria's chemical arsenal. But the State Department official expressed confidence that other nations would agree to serve as destruction sites.

The United States is not among the possible destruction sites. Syrian officials have made it clear that they do not want to hand over their chemical arsenal to the United States, the official said.

He said he was encouraged by the progress in destroying mixing and filling equipment. …

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