Last updated: 19 September, 2013

Chemical weapons watchdog to meet on Syria Friday

The world’s chemical weapons watchdog will meet on Sunday to discuss a Russian-US plan to destroy Syria’s arsenal, it said.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has postponed the meeting several times this week as a draft text was not yet ready.

“The meeting is on Sunday at 10:00 am (0800 GMT),” spokesman Michael Luhan told AFP.

The Hague-based OPCW’s 41-member Executive Council will discuss the plan agreed at the weekend in Geneva in a bid to avert US-led military strikes on Syria, blamed by the West for a deadly chemical weapons attack in August.

The OPCW is charged with implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria asked to join amid growing calls for military action against Damascus.

Its Executive Council is made up of ambassadors from different nations with diplomatic representations in The Hague.

Russia backs the Damascus government in blaming opposition rebels for the August 21 poison gas attack near the Syrian capital in which hundreds of people died.

The plan says that President Bashar al-Assad’s regime will hand over a list of its chemical weapons and facilities by Saturday, and that all will be destroyed by mid-2014.

However, a defiant Assad said in an interview on Wednesday that the task would take at least a year and cost a billion dollars.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council have been holding talks on a resolution backing the Russia-US plan.

Western nations, who said they are not looking for an immediate threat of force against Assad, could seek a Security Council vote this weekend if Russia agrees.

Britain, France and the United States have prepared a draft resolution that would invoke Chapter VII of the UN Charter but would not explicitly threaten force or sanctions.