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Saturday 21 April 2018

UN watchdog says Syria has destroyed all its chemical weapons as refugee crisis worsens

Syria has reportedly destroyed its arsenal of chemical weapons
Syria has reportedly destroyed its arsenal of chemical weapons

Syria has destroyed all of its declared chemical weapons production and mixing facilities, meeting a major deadline in an ambitious disarmament programme, the international chemical weapons watchdog said in a document seen by Reuters.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said in the document its teams had inspected 21 out of 23 chemical weapons sites across the country.

The other two were too dangerous to inspect but the chemical equipment had already been moved to other sites which experts had visited, it said.

"The OPCW is satisfied it has verified, and seen destroyed, all declared critical production/mixing/filling equipment from all 23 sites," the document said.

Under a Russian-American brokered deal, Damascus agreed to destroy all its chemical weapons after Washington threatened to use force in response to the killing of hundreds of people in a sarin attack on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21.

The United States and its allies blamed Assad's forces for the attack and several earlier incidents. The Syrian president has rejected the charge, blaming rebel brigades.

Under the disarmament timetable, Syria was due to render unusable all production and chemical weapons filling facilities by November 1 - a target it has now met. By mid-2014 it must have destroyed its entire stockpile of chemical weapons.

Meanwhile, the refugee crisis in the war-torn country is escalating with the news that some categories of refugees are being denied access to Jordan.

A new report by the human rights group Amnesty International has said that hundreds of people trying to flee the fighting in Syria are being turned back at the border with Jordan and other neighbouring countries.

The categories include Palestinian and Iraqi refugees who have been living in Syria; those without identity documents and unaccompanied men with no family in Jordan.

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