Síria: Armas químicas são destruídas

The destruction of Syria's chemical weapons has begun, international monitors have said. The operation is being overseen by a team from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The mission was established under a United Nations resolution, which was passed after agreement between Russia and the US. The resolution followed international outrage at a chemical weapons attack near Damascus in August. So far so good. Syria has joined the Chemical Weapons Convention. It has made its declarations about what it has in the way of munitions and infrastructure. Now on to destruction. The first target is to eliminate equipment for producing chemical agents and for filling munitions. These two categories of equipment must be destroyed by November. While chemical processes will ultimately be used to neutralise Syria's large stocks of precursor chemicals - the building blocks for militarised chemical agents - brute force may be all that is required for this first stage. Key components of production facilities can be smashed or otherwise put out of action. So, too, can filling sites for munitions. The empty bomb or shells can simply be run over with a heavy vehicle. But this is all still uncharted territory - an unprecedented and accelerated programme to rid a country of its chemical weapons arsenal in the midst of a hot civil war. No wonder then that many experts remain sceptical. The real test of the Syrian authorities' willingness to implement this agreement is only just beginning. In an interim report, UN chemical weapons inspectors confirmed that the nerve agent sarin had been used in the attack in Ghouta on the outskirts of the city on August 21. It was estimated to have killed hundreds of people and was blamed by the United States and other Western powers on the regime of Bashar al-Assad. But he accuses Syrian rebels of being behind it. "Today is the first day of destruction, in which heavy vehicles are going to run over and thus destroy missile warheads, aerial chemical bombs and mobile and static mixing and filling units," a source with the inspection operation told the French AFP news agency. It is not clear at which of the chemical weapons sites declared by the government, thought to number about 20, that Sunday's operation is taking place. The destruction of the stockpile, being carried out by the Syrians, is not expected to be straightforward, as some sites are in combat zones. It is the first time the OPCW - based in The Hague - has been asked to oversee the destruction of a chemical weapons armoury during a conflict. The Syrian government gave details of its chemical weapons arsenal last month to the OPCW under the Russia-US agreement which also provided for Damascus to join the Chemical Weapons Convention. That arsenal is thought to include more than 1,000 tonnes of sarin and the blister agent sulphur mustard among other banned chemicals. Peace conference Under the terms of the agreement between the US and Russia Syria's chemical weapons capability should be removed by the middle of 2014. The speed with which the team has been able to reach the sites and start the process of destruction underlines the urgency of the mission, says the BBC's Anna Holligan in the Hague. UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi was quoted on French media on Sunday as saying he was encouraging all parties to come to Geneva in the second half of November but that peace talks were not a certainty. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has meanwhile suggested Germany could mediate to try to end the 30-month-long civil war. Speaking to Germany's Der Spiegel magazine in an interview to be published on Monday, Mr Assad said he "would be delighted if envoys came from Germany". But he stressed that Damascus would not negotiate with rebels unless they laid down their weapons. Mr Assad again repeated his denial that his troops had used chemical weapons, blaming the rebels instead. More than 100,000 people have died since the uprising began in 2011 and millions more have fled Syria. BBC

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