UNITED NATIONS Oct 3 A team of chemical weapons
experts has made "encouraging initial progress" as it works
towards the elimination of Syria's poison gas arsenal, the
United Nations said on Thursday.
"Documents handed over yesterday by the Syrian government
look promising, according to team members, but further analysis,
particularly of technical diagrams, will be necessary and some
more questions remain to be answered," a U.N. statement said.
The international team consists of experts from the
Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The
Hague and United Nations personnel assisting them in their work.
Last week, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded the
elimination of Syria's chemical arsenal.
"The team hopes to begin onsite inspections and the initial
disabling of equipment within the next week, but this depends on
the outcome of the technical groups established with the
participation of Syrian experts yesterday," the statement said.
The U.N. statement said the technical groups will focus on
three tasks: verification of the information handed over by the
Syrian government, the safety and security of the inspection
teams, and practical arrangements for implementing the work
Agreement on the plan to wipe out Syria's chemical weapons
was reached after President Barack Obama asked Congress to
approve air strikes to punish Syria's government over an Aug. 21
gas attack the United States says killed more than 1,400 people.
There was also optimism in Washington on Thursday about the
plan's prospects, with some U.S. senators saying they felt
encouraged after top Obama administration officials spent three
hours briefing them on the situation in Syria.
"On the chemical side, at least on the part of the
witnesses, there's some optimism that (the plan) will work,"
Senator Carl Levin, a Democrat and the chairman of the Senate
Armed Services Committee, told reporters.
The chemical weapons plan and last week's Security Council
resolution were based on a deal reached last month in Geneva by
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of
State John Kerry.
The rebels and Syrian government blame each other for the
Aug. 21 incident. The United States and other Western countries
say a report by U.N. investigators indirectly implicates
government-allied forces for the attack on a Damascus suburb.
The United Nations has been notified of at least 14 chemical
attacks since the 2 1/2-year civil war began. It estimates more
than 100,000 people have died since the uprising against Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.
Russia, a staunch ally and arms supplier of Assad, also
blames the rebels for the Aug. 21 attack.