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Destroying Syria’s chemical arsenal

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For more than 15 years, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has quietly and methodically destroyed hundreds of tons of unwanted chemical munitions left over from the cold war or surrendered by states seeking international goodwill.

But now the little-known Netherlands-based organization is in the glare of international publicity as it takes the lead in an unprecedented crash program to destroy Syria‘s chemical weapons arsenal in the middle of a civil war and on an ambitious nine-month deadline.

«It’s the ultimate example of building a plane and flying it at the same time,» says Michael Luhan, OPCW’s spokesman. «But … the plane has lifted off, and we’ve got our game plan set for rotating in and out of Syria in the next month.»

Dozens of weapons inspectors have arrived in Damascus, Syria, for the opening phase of the verification process. They face a daunting challenge, given the suspected scale of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, the tight time frame, and the dangers of operating amid a bitter civil war that has left 110,000 people dead.

A year ago, details of Syria’s long-suspected chemical weapons program were shrouded in mystery. But in the past 12 months the Syrian opposition and human rights groups have lodged numerous accusations against the regime of Bashar al-Assad of using chemical weapons… MORE

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