Syria chemical weapons equipment destroyed

DAMASCUS - Syria's declared equipment for producing, mixing and filling chemical weapons has been destroyed, the international watchdog says.

This comes a day before the deadline set by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

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

The government denies the accusations and blames rebel forces.

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.

"We have personally observed all the destruction activities," OPCW head of field operations Jerry Smith told the BBC.

"They are not now in a position to conduct any further production or mixing of chemical weapons."

In a statement, the OPCW said its teams had 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, it 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.

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