UN chemical weapons experts, shown here in gas masks, were able to confirm that a sarin gas attack was launched in August near Damascus. A U.S.-Russia deal gave the Syrian regime a Saturday deadline to submit a list of its chemical weapons stockpiles and facilities so they can be destroyed. Mohamed Abdullah/Reuters
Technical experts at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons were reviewing Saturday a further disclosure from Syria about its chemical weapons program.
A day earlier, the body that polices the global treaty outlawing chemical weapons said it had received a preliminary submission from Syria.
No details have been released of what is in the Syrian declarations, and OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan refused to give any more information about the latest submission.
Under a U.S.-Russia agreement aimed at swiftly ridding Syria of its chemical arsenal, Damascus had until Saturday to submit a full list to the organization of its chemical weapons and production facilities so they can be secured and destroyed.
U.S. officials said last week that Washington and Moscow agreed that Syria had roughly 1,000 metric tons of chemical weapons agents and precursors, including blister agents, such as sulfur and mustard gas and nerve agents like sarin.
In the aftermath of the UN report that concluded sarin had been used in an Aug. 21 attack in Damascus, the Hague-based chemical weapons watchdog is looking for ways to fast-track moves to secure and destroy Syria's arsenal of poison gas and nerve agents as well as its production facilities.
However, diplomatic efforts to speed up the process are moving slowly. A meeting initially scheduled for Sunday at which the organization's 41-nation executive council was to have discussed a U.S.-Russian plan to swiftly rid Syria of chemical weapons was postponed Friday. No new date has yet been set for the meeting and no reason given for its postponement.
Under the U.S.-Russia agreement brokered last weekend in Geneva, inspectors will be on the ground in Syria by November. During that month, they are to complete their initial assessment and all mixing and filling equipment for chemical weapons is to be destroyed. All components of the chemical weapons program are to be removed from the country or destroyed by mid-2014.
The destruction plan of action will be backed up by a U.N. Security Council resolution.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday he talked to his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, about Syria's chemical weapons.
"I had a fairly long conversation with Foreign Minister Lavrov," Kerry said in Washington. "We talked about the co-operation which we both agreed to continue to provide, moving not only toward the adoption of the OPCW rules and regulations, but also a resolution that is firm and strong within the United Nations. We will continue to work on that."
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons polices a global treaty known as the Chemical Weapons Convention, which bars the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical arms. The organization relies on a global network of more than a dozen top laboratories to analyze field samples.
It has already overseen the destruction of large quantities of chemical weapons held by nations including the U.S. and Russia.
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