The New York Times reports: A senior Obama administration official said Friday that the United States was encouraged by the initial inventory that the Syrian government had submitted of its chemical weapons arsenal.
“We were pleasantly surprised by the completeness of their declaration,” said the official, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
“It was better than expected,” he added.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the watchdog group known as the O.P.C.W. that oversees the international agreement banning poison gas, said on Friday that Syria had provided “an initial declaration” of its chemical weapons program.
The submission met the first deadline for Syrian compliance that was set down by the framework agreement that the United States and Russia concluded in Geneva last weekend.
American, British, Chinese, French and Russian diplomats are debating the terms of a United Nations Security Council resolution that would enforce the agreement. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday that it was essential for the Council to adopt the resolution next week.
“It started coming in yesterday,” Michael Luhan, a spokesman for the O.P.C.W., said of the Syrian declaration. Mr. Luhan, who spoke in a telephone interview from The Hague, said that the organization’s technical experts were studying the declaration but would not give additional details.
The declaration’s completeness is an early test of President Bashar al-Assad’s commitment to relinquish Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.
The United States and Russia agreed in Geneva that Syria has about 1,000 tons of precursor chemicals and chemical agents, including sulfur mustard and sarin gas.
The fact that Russia, which has been one of the principal supporters of the Assad government, reached a consensus with the United States on the size of the arsenal after receiving an intelligence briefing by American experts suggested that the Syrian government would eventually declare a similar figure. [Continue reading…]