Destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons begins, U.N. says

Syria

CNN) — Syrians began destroying their country’s chemical weapons program Sunday, according to an international team tasked with overseeing the effort.

Syrian personnel are using “cutting torches and angle grinders to destroy or disable a range of items,” a news release from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Sunday. “This included missile warheads, aerial bombs and mixing and filling equipment.”

The OPCW team, which arrived in Damascus on Tuesday, “are monitoring, verifying and reporting on Syria’s compliance with international demands to destroy chemical weapons stockpiles and production facilities,” the release said.

“The process will continue in the coming days,” it said. The inspectors plan to visit nearly 50 sites as part of the mission, the OPCW said.

Some are not convinced the plan will work.

A defected Syrian general told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will never give up its chemical stockpile.

“The locations of most of the scientific research centers in Syria and the storage facilities are known and under surveillance, thus, he will give up those centers and facilities for sure without lying. That said, however, Bashar al-Assad will not give up the chemical stockpile,” said Syrian Brig. Gen. Zaher al-Sakat.

Al-Sakat said that he defected from the Syrian military after he was ordered to use chemical agents. He said he swapped the chemicals out for something non-toxic to fool his commanders.

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