Syria’s chemical arms production equipment ‘destroyed’

Syria’s declared equipment for producing, mixing and filling chemical weapons has been destroyed, sources with the international watchdog say.

An announcement by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is expected later – a day before its deadline which Syria had to meet.

Inspectors were sent to Syria following allegations that government forces had used chemical weapons in civilian areas, killing scores of people.

The government denies the accusations.

The inspections were agreed between Russia and the US after Washington threatened to use force in Syria.

Now that the equipment has been put beyond use, Syria has until mid-2014 to destroy the chemical weapons themselves.

Its arsenal is believed to include more than 1,000 tonnes of the nerve gas sarin, the blister agent sulphur mustard and other banned chemicals, stored at dozens of sites.

“Syria has completed rendering inoperable its chemical weapons production and assembly installations,” an OPCW source told the AFP news agency.

According to a document seen by the Reuters news agency, OPCW teams have inspected 21 of the 23 chemical weapons sites in Syria.

The other two were too dangerous to visit but the equipment had already been moved to some of the other sites, the document said.

The US says more than 1,400 people were killed during a nerve agent attack in Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus on 21 August.

Syria and Russia believe rebel groups were responsible for the attack.