Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
What next on Iran’s nuclear deal: follow the news here

Chemical weapons experts in Beirut en route to Syria

Inspectors at The Hague say their first priority is to scrap Syria’s ability to manufacture chemical weapons by a November 1 deadline, using every means possible.

DAMASCUS // Inspectors entrusted with overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons began their mission on Monday, flying to Lebanon en route to Syria, as another group wrapped up their investigation of alleged past chemical weapons attacks.

Syria’s foreign minister Walid Moallem, meanwhile, said his government refused to sit down for talks with the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the main western-backed opposition group, putting a damper on US-Russian efforts to hold a peace conference with the two sides by mid-November.

Twenty inspectors from the Netherlands-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons landed in Beirut on a private jet, but did not speak to journalists, Lebanese airport and security officials said.

The group is scheduled to begin work in Syria on Tuesday.

Inspectors at The Hague said their first priority was to scrap its ability to manufacture chemical weapons by a November 1 deadline, using every means possible.

That may include smashing mixing equipment with sledgehammers, blowing up delivery missiles, driving tanks over empty shells or filling them with concrete, and running machines without lubricant so they seize up and become inoperable.

The inspectors are working under a UN Security Council resolution to have Syria dismantle an estimated 1,000 tonnes of chemical weapons by mid-2014. The resolution, passed on Friday, also calls for consequences if Syria fails to comply, though the council would have to pass another resolution to impose any penalties.

It also endorsed the roadmap for a political transition in Syria adopted by key nations in June 2012, and called for an international conference to be convened “as soon as possible” to implement it.

But Mr Moallem’s comments put a damper on those efforts.

He said Damascus officials would not sit down to talk with the SNC because it had supported the possibility of punitive US strikes on Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons against civilans on August 21 that Washington says was carried put by the regime.

Mr Moallem told the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV on Sunday that the group “is not popular in Syria and lost a lot among Syrians when it called on the US to attack Syria militarily”.

He said other opposition groups in Syria should be represented in future peace talks, “but not the coalition”.

Mr Moallem also lashed out at the rebels when he addressed world leaders on Monday at the UN General Assembly in New York. He claimed his government was fighting a war against Al Qaeda-linked militants.

The SNC’s president, Ahmad Jarba, expressed readiness last week to attend talks in Geneva aimed at establishing a transitional government with full executive powers. But other coalition members said they would only participate if they have guarantees that Mr Al Assad would step down.

Last week, about a dozen key Syrian rebel groups rejected the authority of the SNC, making it less clear than ever who would attend any talks in Geneva.

* Associated Press

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 A view of a defaced portrait of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during an anti-North Korean rally on the 102nd birthday of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung in central Seoul. Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters

Best photography from around the world, April 15

The National View's photo editors pick the best images of the day from around the world.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National