DAMASCUS (AFP) - Experts began on Sunday the process of destroying Syria's chemical weapons arsenal under the terms of a United Nations resolution that would see Damascus relinquish its banned weapons, an official told AFP.
The source in the international mission said the experts would verify details of the arsenal turned over by the Syrian government and start the process of destroying the weapons and production facilities. The team faces the massive task of destroying an estimated 1,000 tonnes of the nerve agent sarin, mustard gas and other banned arms at dozens of sites in Syria by the middle of next year in line with the UN resolution.
As the operation got under way, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad admitted in an interview with Germany's Spiegel news magazine that his government made "mistakes" in the country's brutal civil conflict. But he again denied that his forces used chemical weapons in an Aug 21 attack that eventually led to the UN resolution requiring Syria to turn over its arsenal of the banned weapons.
The team of disarmament experts from the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) based in The Hague arrived in Damascus on Tuesday. An official in the joint mission said ib Sunday that members of the team "have left for a site where they are beginning verification and destruction".
"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," he said.
An OPCW official said earlier this week that all "expedient methods" would be used to render Syria's production facilities unusable, including explosives, sledgehammers, or pouring in concrete.