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Syria

Syria submits chemical arms information to OPCW

The world's chemical weapons watchdog has received an "initial disclosure" of Syria’s weapons program. Under a US-Russia brokered agreement, all of the country’s chemical weapons are to be destroyed by mid-2014.

"The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has received an initial disclosure from the Syrian government of its chemical weapons program," the Hague-based organization said in a statement Friday.

Spokesman Michael Luhan told The Associated Press that the declaration is "being reviewed by our verification division." The organization will not release details of what is in the declaration.

Meanwhile, the OPCW on Friday indefinitely postponed a meeting scheduled for Sunday to discuss how to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons program. The organization's Executive Council is made up of ambassadors from different nations with diplomatic representations in The Hague. No reason was given for the postponement and a new date has not been set.

The OPCW polices the Chemical Weapons Convention that Syria has applied to join. The watchdog has been tasked with finding ways to secure and destroy Syria's arsenal of poison gas and nerve agents as well as its production facilities.

A chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb on August 21 prompted US threats of launching a limited military intervention in Syria. However, a counterproposal from Russia for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to relinquish his stockpile of chemical weapons may have provided an alternative to military action.

Under the new US-Russia brokered agreement reached last weekend in Geneva, inspectors are to be on the ground in Syria by November and all components of Damascus' chemical weapons program are to be removed from the country or destroyed by mid-2014.

The UN has since published a report confirming the use of sarin gas in the attack, yet it did not identify the culprit, as that task did not fall under its mandate. The US, France and Great Britain have said the evidence points to Assad, but the Syrian president has rejected these allegations.

While Assad has vowed to comply with the United Nations and to destroy his regime's chemical arms arsenal, some leaders remain skeptical of the promise. US Secretary of State John Kerry called on the United Nations on Thursday to pass a binding resolution on Syria's chemical arsenal by next week.

hc/msh (AFP, AP, dpa)