SYRIA -- October 1, 2013 at 12:32 PM ET
Chemical weapons experts arrive in Damascus to begin inspecting Syria's stockpiles
Experts from the world's chemical weapons watchdog, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), are expected to begin inspecting Syria's stockpile of toxic munitions -- what Western intelligence agencies believe is about 1,000 tonnes of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agents.
Twenty chemical weapons experts arrived in Damascus Tuesday and met with officials from Syria's foreign ministry before undertaking their daunting task.
"Never before has the OPCW faced a task of this magnitude and importance," OPCW director-general Ahmet Üzümcü said on Friday at the Hague. "The Executive Council has placed a heavy burden on our shoulders. It has established a far-reaching mandate with ambitious target dates."
For most countries such processes can takes years, but Syria has been given nine months, until mid-2014.
Weapons inspectors at the Hague told the AP Sunday that their first task will be to dismantle any ability to manufacture further arms by smashing mixing equipment, blowing up delivery missles, destroying empty shells and making machines inoperable.
The OPCW was founded in 1997 and has 189 Member States, who have signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which became binding international law April 29, 1997. There are five countries which have yet to sign the CWC: Angola, Egypt, North Korea, South Sudan and Syria. Israel and Myanmar have signed, but their governments have yet to ratify the Convention into law.
While Syria has yet to sign, part of Assad's agreement to hand out chemical weapons stockpiles included a request by the Syrian government for provisional application of the Convention.
The NewsHour previously reported on a resolution to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons and talked to a former UN weapons inspector on how the international community go about working with Syria to take over its deadly arms.