Syria wants its chemical arms destroyed elsewhere

A poster of Syrian President Bashar Assad adorns a wall as a United Nations vehicle carrying inspectors from the OPCW leaves a hotel in Damascus, Oct. 9, 2013. LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images

THE HAGUE, Netherlands The chief of the global chemical weapons watchdog is confirming that Syria wants its poison gas and nerve agent stockpile destroyed outside the country.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says its director-general, Ahmet Uzumcu, told a meeting Tuesday about details of a confidential plan Syria has submitted for destruction of its chemical arsenal.

Uzumcu told the OPCW's executive council that Syria's proposal that chemical weapons be destroyed in another country, "remains the most viable option."

It is not yet clear where outside Syria the destruction could happen. Norway has turned down a request to have the material destroyed on its territory.

Uzumcu says Syria cites "practical challenges" of destroying chemical weapons amid its civil war and "resource limitations" as reasons for shifting the destruction outside the country.

Global chemical weapons inspectors will visit the last two unverified Syrian chemical weapons sites as soon as security conditions allow in the midst of an ongoing civil war, a U.N. official said Tuesday.

Sigrid Kaag, the head of the joint mission of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, told the Security Council that the inspectors will check the last two sites as soon as possible. The inspectors last week said they had visited 21 of 23 sites declared by Damascus. "The intent is to visit them in future, subject to security conditions in the country," she said.

The OPCW said last week that Syria had met the Nov. 1 deadline to destroy or "render inoperable" all chemical weapon production facilities and machinery for mixing chemicals into poison gas and filling munitions.

Kaag cited the "constructive cooperation of the Syrian authorities" in helping catalogue and open for inspection its chemical weapons sites.

Syria is believed to possess around 1,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, including mustard gas and sarin. Damascus already had given preliminary details to the OPCW when it declared it was joining the organization in September.

Meanwhile, after a rocky day of talks, diplomats failed Tuesday to agree on a date to bring Syria's warring sides back to the negotiating table, the U.N's top envoy for Syria said.

Still, Lakhdar Brahimi told reporters at a news conference in Geneva that did not mean all hopes for a peace conference on Syria were dashed.

"(We) are still striving to see if we can have the conference before the end of the year," he said.

The diplomatic talks among world powers in Geneva at the U.N.'s elegant Palais des Nations contrasted sharply with the heavy shelling and missile attacks being waged in a civil war that both sides still believe they might win militarily.

Diplomats ran into repeated roadblocks Tuesday. The world powers strongly disagreed over what diplomatic steps to take to resolve the fighting and what any future Syrian leadership beyond President Bashar Assad's government should look like.

Assad's government signaled it was not ready to negotiate handing over power, while his main ally Russia insisted, once again, that pro-Assad Iran must be part of any talks on a war whose death count officially surpassed 100,000 more than three months ago.

The United Nations, meanwhile, announced that as many as 40 percent of Syrians now need humanitarian aid.

The Syrian war has left over 9 million citizens in need of humanitarian aid, including 6.5 million people who are now internally displaced, said Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

"They're staggering, it's a disaster, and it continues," Laerke said.

In Syria, a mortar round Tuesday slammed into a Damascus building that houses the Vatican's embassy. No casualties were reported and no one claimed responsibility for the attack.

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