Syria has disclosed details of its chemical-weapons inventory to an international organisation for the first time, a United Nations agency has said.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said Syria had crossed the first hurdle set down in an agreement between Russia and the US that was intended to prevent Western missile strikes.
"We have received an initial disclosure from Syria of its chemical-weapons programme," a statement said. "It's now being examined by the technical secretariat."
The OPCW did not give details of what was contained in the disclosures, but its principal backer, Russia, which played a key role in forcing President Bashar al-Assad to agree to the deal, already agrees with US assessments of the arsenal's size.
Analysts say the regime has about 1,000 tons of toxins including sarin, VX nerve agent and mustard gas, as well as delivery systems.
The OPCW also admitted that a meeting of its council today, comprising ambassadors to The Hague, had been postponed.
This is likely to be because of continuing debate between the US and Russia over the terms for the next stage of the deal – verification and disposal of the stocks – along with what penalties will be imposed if Assad reneges.
Russia, which has used its United Nations Security Council veto to prevent punitive action against Syria, is holding out for a broader peace conference at which Assad would be represented.
The Syrian deputy prime minister, Qadri Jamil, said in an interview with 'The Guardian' that the regime was ready for a ceasefire, as it was obvious neither side could achieve military victory.
He also hinted, without confirming, that Assad's removal was open to negotiation. "Let nobody have any fear that the regime in its present form will continue," he said.
A 'Geneva II' peace conference would bring the Syrian National Coalition, other unspecified opposition groups and the regime to the table, as originally suggested by a peace conference in the Swiss city early last year. (© Daily Telegraph, London)