Syria chemical weapons inspections could begin next week

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Syria has pushed for the investigation of the three post-21 August incidents. Reuters
International experts will begin inspecting Syria\’s chemical arsenal by Tuesday under a plan set to be approved by the world\’s top chemical weapons monitoring group.
The UN said its team of inspectors is set to finish its work by Monday.
The day after, a separate team is due to arrive in Damascus to inspect Syria\’s chemical weapons stockpile.
That visit, by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), is due to be formally approved later.
The OPCW\’s 41-nation executive council will vote on a draft agreement for the inspections on Friday evening.
The text will then be incorporated into a UN Security Council resolution – which has been agreed by both the US and Russia – calling on Syria to give up its chemical weapons.
The United States and Russia reached an agreement Thursday on a plan to seize Syria’s chemical weapons in a move the Obama administration deemed a diplomatic breakthrough, even though the resolution stops short of triggering military action should Syria fail to comply.
The draft U.S.-Russian resolution received support from fellow permanent members France, China and Britain, and it was put before the full 15-member U.N. Security Council on Thursday night. The draft also was to be submitted to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is expected to add its own text to the resolution, Russian officials said.
U.S. officials said the resolution deems Syria’s chemical arsenal a threat to international peace and security and makes it legally binding for President Bashar Assad’s government to comply with an expedited plan to hand over the weapons to international authorities for destruction.
The tricky part, however, is in language about what happens should Syria fail to fulfill its end of the deal, which includes refraining from the use or transport of chemical weapons, and allowing international authorities unfettered access to related facilities.
U.S. negotiators gave up the demand of military force, authorized under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, as a consequence for noncompliance, compromising with the Russians on softer wording that says the Security Council would be “authorized to impose measures under Chapter 7,” according to diplomats and news reports.
President Assad agreed earlier this month to give up his chemical weapons, following threats of U.S. military strikes in response to a poison gas attack on a rebel-held suburb last month that killed hundreds.
Assad denies carrying out the attack. He and his Russian allies instead say rebels trying to overthrow his government carried out the chemical attack.
The draft agreed to Thursday would ban Syria from possessing chemical weapons. It also condemned "in the strongest possible" terms the August 21 attack and says the use of such weapons anywhere is a threat to international peace and security.
Though the draft\’s language is not as strong as the U.S. and its Western allies on the Security Council had wanted, its passage would break a two-and-a-half-year deadlock at the world body.
Russia and China, both permanent members of the Council, have already vetoed three bills that would punish Mr. Assad\’s government.
More than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict, and the UN refugee agency says about one third of Syria\’s pre-war population of 20.8 million have fled their homes, either to other countries or safer areas within Syria.
Source: Agencies

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