Russia: U.N. Chemical-Arms Team Poised to Re-enter Syria

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Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Sept. 24, 2013, 6:02 a.m.

Mo­scow said an in­ter­na­tion­al task force is poised to re-enter Syr­ia on Wed­nes­day to look fur­ther at al­leg­a­tions of chem­ic­al-weapons use in the coun­try’s civil war, Re­u­ters re­por­ted.

Rus­sia last week cri­ti­cized the ini­tial U.N. find­ings that nerve gas was used in an Aug. 21 at­tack, which have widely been seen to im­plic­ate its Dam­as­cus ally in that re­lease over a Dam­as­cus sub­urb.

Mo­scow, though, is “pleased” that the in­vest­ig­at­ors now are ex­pec­ted to probe “oth­er epis­odes” of pos­sible chem­ic­al-weapon use, Rus­si­an Deputy For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Ry­ab­kov said on Tues­day. Rus­sia has joined Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad’s gov­ern­ment in blam­ing such strikes on rebel forces.

States parties to an in­ter­na­tion­al chem­ic­al-arms ban on Tues­day were con­sult­ing on a “draft de­cision” for dis­mant­ling Syr­ia’s chem­ic­al ar­sen­al, the Or­gan­iz­a­tion for the Pro­hib­i­tion of Chem­ic­al Weapons stated. The 41-na­tion OP­CW Ex­ec­ut­ive Coun­cil was due on Tues­day to vote on a U.S.-Rus­si­an blue­print for mon­it­or­ing and des­troy­ing the stock­pile, Re­u­ters re­por­ted.

En­voys said the U.N. Se­cur­ity Coun­cil could act as soon as Thursday to pass a meas­ure back­ing the OP­CW text. Rus­sia, though, has con­tin­ued op­pos­ing calls by West­ern gov­ern­ments for the Se­cur­ity Coun­cil to en­dorse pos­sible pun­it­ive ac­tion for any non­com­pli­ance by Dam­as­cus.

“There can be no talk of any auto­mat­ic ap­plic­a­tion of sanc­tions, let alone the use of force,” Re­u­ters quoted Ry­ab­kov as say­ing on Tues­day.

Spe­cial­ists said elim­in­at­ing the weapons by next June — as the U.S.-Rus­si­an dis­arm­a­ment plan de­mands — would be a chal­lenge for the in­ter­na­tion­al com­munity, the New York Times re­por­ted on Monday.

“If you want to act quickly, the tech­nic­al de­cisions have to be made now, while the dip­lo­mats are work­ing,” said Lenny Siegel, head of the Cen­ter for Pub­lic En­vir­on­ment­al Over­sight. “This is dif­fi­cult stuff and it’s costly but the tech­no­lo­gies ex­ist — though most people don’t know that.”

Mean­while, the Le­banese mil­it­ant group Hezbol­lah on Monday re­jec­ted a Syr­i­an rebel as­ser­tion that it had taken cus­tody of chem­ic­al arms from Syr­ia, the Daily Star re­por­ted.

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