Chemical weapons inspectors cross into Syria

BEIRUT — An advance group of international inspectors arrived in Syria on Tuesday to begin the ambitious task of overseeing the destruction of President Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons program, kicking off a mission that must navigate the country’s bloody civil war as well as the international spotlight.

Twenty inspectors from a Netherlands-based chemical weapons watchdog crossed into Syria from neighboring Lebanon on their way to Damascus to begin their complex mission of finding, dismantling and ultimately destroying an estimated 1,000-ton chemical arsenal.

The experts have about nine months to complete the task, which has been endorsed by a U.N. Security Council resolution that calls for Syria’s chemical stockpile to be eliminated by mid-2014. It is the shortest deadline that experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have ever faced in any nation, and their first mission in a country at war.

The team arrived in Damascus late Tuesday afternoon in a 19-vehicle convoy that was escorted from the border by two representatives from the Syrian Foreign Ministry. The inspectors were expected to meet with officials from the ministry later in the day.

Experts at The Hague, where the OPCW is based, said Sunday the inspectors’ priority is to achieve the first milestone of helping Syria scrap its ability to manufacture chemical weapons by a Nov. 1 deadline, using every means possible. That may include smashing mixing equipment with sledgehammers, blowing up delivery missiles, driving tanks over empty shells or filling them with concrete, and running machines without lubricant so they seize up and become inoperable.

Some of the inspectors will be double-checking Syria’s initial disclosure of what weapons and chemical precursors it has and where they are located. Others will begin planning the logistics for visits to every location where chemicals or weapons are stored.

Within a week, a second group of inspectors is scheduled to arrive — fewer than 100 combined — and form teams that will fan out to individual sites. Their routes are secret — both for their safety and because Syria has the right not to reveal its military secrets, including base locations.

The inspectors’ mission was born out of a deadly chemical attack on opposition-held suburbs of Damascus on Aug. 21. The U.S. and its allies accuse the Syrian regime of being responsible, while Damascus blames the rebels.

Mower County

In Your Community: Wolfe siblings get together to celebrate milestones

Mower County

In Your Community: 2024 Music Hall of Fame inductees honored

News

Canadian wildfire smoke chokes Upper Midwest for second straight year

Mower County

Archaeology in Mower County: Beyond the quarry

Mower County

Ikes fundraiser Wednesday night

Education

Rochester Public Schools move to formalize procedure for helping transgender kids

News

Psychosis care model gives new hope to young patients

News

Proposed Minnesota Equal Rights Amendment draws rival crowds to Capitol for crucial votes

Austin Packers

APS Board gets update on plan to add boys volleyball

Mower County

Legislature prepares to go down to the wire as Minnesota session wraps up

Mower County

Skilled Nursing Care Week: Nurses thrive with in a family atmosphere

Mower County

Public invited to walk for mental health

Education

Riverland graduation: stories of hope and resilience

Blooming Prairie

To be celebrated: Zumbro Education District holds Activity Day for special education students

News

Minnesota readies for its flag switch as old banner comes down

Crime, Courts & Emergencies

Convictions: April 29 to May 6

News

Bob Ross’ legacy lives on in new ‘The Joy of Painting’ series

News

Judge directs Michael Cohen to keep quiet about Trump ahead of his hush money trial testimony

News

Prepare for another summer of air quality alerts, but less than 2023

Mower County

In Your Community: Mower County Senior Center

Mower County

St. Mark’s to host seminar on downsizing

Mower County

31st annual Stamp Out Hunger drive this Saturday

Education

Riverland Music student qualifies for national competition

Crime, Courts & Emergencies

18-year-old from Lyle charged with 15 felonies, 14 related to child pornography