Getting Rid of Syria’s Chemical Weapons Stockpile Could Take Years

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A UN inspector takes a sample of a nerve agent in Iraq, 1991 (photo/UN photo)

Sept. 9, 2013 – Verifying, inspecting and destroying Syria’s chemicals weapons stockpile could take years if the past is any indication.

Of the seven countries that have declared they possess these weapons, only Albania, India and a third country said to be South Koreahave completed destruction of their stockpile of prohibited chemical agents and chemical munitions.

The OPCW, which oversees compliance with the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention - which Syria has neither signed nor ratified – reported in July that 81 percent of the  71,196 metric tons of declared prohibited chemical agents and 57 percent of the 8.6 million declared chemical munitions have been destroyed.

It would also seem that inspecting and verifying Syria’s stockpile would require a ceasefire to come into effect so investigators can safely visit Damascus or other locations where chemical weapons are produced and stored.

Four other countries besides Syria have not signed the CWC – Angola, Egypt, North Korea and South Sudan – while two, Israel and Myanmar, have signed but not ratified.

The four other countries that have yet to complete destruction of their declared chemical weapons stockpiles are Iraq, Libya, Russia and the US.

- Denis Fitzgerald